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Metropolitan France (French: France métropolitaine or la Métropole, or colloquially l'Hexagone) is the part of France located in Europe. It can also be described as mainland France or as the French mainland and the island of Corsica. By contrast, Overseas France (la France d'outre-mer, or l'Outre-mer, or colloquially les DOM-TOM) is the collective name for the French overseas departments (départements d'outre-mer or DOM), territories (territoires d'outre-mer or TOM), collectivities (collectivités d'outre-mer or COM) and the sui generis collectivity (collectivité sui generis) of New Caledonia.
Metropolitan France and Overseas France together form what is officially called the French Republic. Metropolitan France accounts for 81.8% of the territory and 95.9% of the population of the French Republic.
The five overseas departments—Martinique, Guadeloupe, Réunion, French Guiana, and Mayotte—have the same political status as metropolitan France's departments. Metropolitan France and these five overseas departments together are sometimes called France entière ("entire France") by the French administration, especially by INSEE, although in reality this France entière does not include the French overseas collectivities and territories which have more autonomy than the overseas departments (read the Origin of the name section below).
In overseas France, a person from metropolitan France is often called a métro, short for métropolitain.
The term "metropolitan France" dates from the country's colonial period (from the 16th through the 20th centuries), when France was referred to as la Métropole (literally "the Metropolis") as distinguished from its colonies and protectorates, known as les colonies or l'Empire. Similar terms existed to describe other European colonial powers (e.g. "metropolitan Britain", "España metropolitana"). This usage of the words "metropolis" and "metropolitan" itself came from ancient Greek "metropolis" (from μήτηρ mētēr "mother" and πόλις pólis "city, town") which was the name for a city-state from which originated colonies across the Mediterranean (e.g. Marseille was a colony of the city-state of Phocaea, therefore Phocaea was the "metropolis" of Marseille). By extension "metropolis" and "metropolitan" came to mean "motherland", a nation or country as opposed to its colonies overseas.
Today there are some people in overseas France who object to the use of the term France métropolitaine due to its colonial origins. They prefer to call it "the European territory of France" (le territoire européen de la France), as the Treaties of the European Union do. Likewise, they oppose treating overseas France and metropolitan France as separate entities. For example, INSEE used to calculate its statistics (demography, economy, etc.) for metropolitan France only, and then treat the overseas departments and territories separately, but people in the overseas departments opposed this separate treatment, arguing that the five overseas departments are fully part of France. As a result, starting in the end of the 1990s, INSEE is now including the five overseas departments in its figures for France (such as total population or GDP). INSEE refers to metropolitan France and the five overseas departments as France entière ("entire France"); "entire France" includes the five overseas departments, but does not include the other overseas collectivities and territories. Other branches of the French administration may have different definitions of what France entière is. For example, when the Ministry of the Interior releases election results, they use the name France entière to refer to the entire French Republic, including all of overseas France and not just the five overseas departments contrary to INSEE.
Note that since INSEE is now calculating statistics for France entière, this practice has spread to international institutions so that for instance the French GDP published by the World Bank includes metropolitan France and the five overseas departments. The World Bank refers to this as "France" only, and not "entire France" as INSEE does.
Metropolitan France covers an area of 551,695 km² (213,011 sq. miles), while overseas France covers an area of 123,148 km² (47,548 sq. miles), for a total of 674,843 km² (260,558 sq. miles) in the French Republic (excluding Adélie Land in Antarctica where sovereignty is suspended since the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959). Thus, metropolitan France accounts for 81.8% of the French Republic's territory.
As of January 1, 2011, 63,136,180 people lived in metropolitan France, while 2,685,705 lived in overseas France, for a total of 65,821,885 inhabitants in the French Republic. Thus, metropolitan France accounts for 95.9% of the French Republic's population.
In the second round of the 2007 French presidential election, 37,342,004 French people cast a ballot (meaning a record turnout of 83.97%). 35,907,015 of these (96.16% of the total voters) cast their ballots in metropolitan France (turnout: 85.31%), 1,088,679 (2.91% of the total voters) cast their ballots in overseas France (turnout: 69.85%), and 346,310 (0.93% of the total voters) cast their ballots in foreign countries (French people living abroad; turnout: 42.13%).
The French National Assembly is made up of 577 deputies, 555 of whom (96.2% of the total) are elected in metropolitan France, and 22 of whom (3.8% of the total) are elected in overseas France.
Metropolitan France, excluding the island of Corsica, is sometimes referred to as "continental France" (French: la France continentale), or just "the Continent" (French: le continent).
In Corsica, people from the continental part of Metropolitan France are referred to as "Continentals" (French: les continentaux).
A casual synonym for the continental part of Metropolitan France is l'Hexagone ("the Hexagon"), for its approximate shape, and the adjective hexagonal may be a casual synonym of French (usually understood as metropolitan only, except in topics related to the foreign affairs and national politics of France as a whole).