is often referred to as L'Hexagone because of its shape and is divided into 22 regions within the country and 4 overseas
. The regions are sub-divided into administrative areas called départments
or provinces (counties), each having between two and eight that may share borders.
were formed in 1972 as a governmental divide between the départments and Paris, the country's capitol.
Some of the regions were created primarily to serve as a zone of influence for their capitals to create balancing metropolises or métropoles d'équilibre
. Banks and state departments were moved out of the large cities and into the provinces. They levy their own distinct taxes and the budgets are managed by the Conseil Régional
or regional council made up of a president and elected representatives. They have considerable discretionary spending available for infrastructural issues such as education, public transportation, schools and universities, and research.
With the formation of regions, the powers of the many individual départments were reduced and identity was restored to the larger land masses. Every region is dominated by a capital city referred to as La France Metropolitaine
or La Metropole. Capital cities of France
are divided into arrondisements or districts, which are then split into territorial subdivisions called cantons. Often, the départments are named after the largest rivers which flow through them. For each of the 100 departments there is a préfecture that functions as an administration under the Ministry of the Interior. They are in charge of things such as identity cards, driving licenses and vehicle registration, passports, foreigner residency and work permits, as well as police and firefighter management.
are groups of communes and these communes may be made up of a population anywhere from one person, such as in Rochefourchat (Drôme region) to 2 million people such as in the city of Paris in the Ile-de-France
which is an incorporated municipalilty will have an elected council for a 6-year term as well as a Mairie or mayor. In 1995, a law was enacted to encourage the citizens of communes to band together to form pays
to promote their geographical, cultural, social, and economic strengths and similarities. The law which allowed this is the Loi Voynet
or LOADDT (Loi d'Orientation de l'Aménagement Durable du Territoire). In modern times, a french resident will often refer to their locality by the pays rather than by the départment name.
There are four overseas regions
sometimes referred to as départements d'outre-mer
or territoires d'outre-mer
(DOM-TOM) which have the same political status as metropolitan departments and are integral parts of France.