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French Guiana, also known as French Guiana, French Guyane [gɥiˌjan], is an overseas department (with the serial number 973) and a region of France. French Guiana is located in the north of South America on the Atlantic Ocean between Brazil and Suriname at 4° north latitude and 53° west longitude. French Guiana is a fully integrated part of the French state and therefore part of the European Union. The euro is legal tender.

Policy

Like all the other departments, French Guiana is represented in the French legislature by representatives of the people and the municipalities: it has two seats in the National Assembly and two in the Senate. All French laws apply in French Guiana. However, according to Article 73 of the French Constitution, local particularities can be taken into account.

Since the decentralization laws of 1982, French Guiana has been both a département and a region of France. French Guiana is divided into two arrondissements, one around Cayenne, the other with the sub-prefecture Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni. The area is further divided into 19 cantons and 22 communes.

The citizens elect every six years the Conseil général (for the department) with 19 members and the Conseil régional (for the region) with 31 members. The prefect is Martin Jaeger (January 2017).

In a referendum on greater autonomy for the département initiated by the French government on 10 January 2010, 69.8 percent of voters voted against with 55 percent turnout. In a further vote on 24 January 2010, a majority of 57.58 percent voted in favour of merging the département and region. However, the turnout was only 27.44%.

French Guiana is part of the European Union. Therefore, the borders with Suriname and Brazil are at the same time EU external borders.

Economy

Together with the French space agency CNES, ESA operates the Centre Spatial Guyanais spaceport in Kourou. This is where Arianespace launches the Ariane launch vehicles with communication satellites and other payloads. The spaceport was expanded so that since December 2011 Soyuz and Vegar rockets can also be launched from Kourou. Due to their proximity to the equator, the rockets require less fuel to launch from here than from Europe in order to transport a payload to a certain orbit height.

The spaceport is the main pillar of the economy of French Guiana. In the meantime, the spaceport in Kourou has also become a tourist engine of the domestic economy.

Due to the tropical rainforest, forestry is an important economic sector of the country. Agriculture is only practised near the coast. In other branches of the economy, only crab fishing and gold mining are worth mentioning.

The most important trading partners are the French mother country, Trinidad and Tobago and Italy. The main exports are fish, rice and gold, and the main imports from French Guiana include machinery and vehicles. The mercury used in (mostly illegal) gold mining reaches the waters and is absorbed by the fish. This leads to disease symptoms similar to Minamata disease in Japan for those parts of the indigenous population who feed mainly on fish. French officials are stepping up their fight against illegal gold prospectors by seizing them and deporting them to Brazil. But soon after, the gold prospectors are invading French Guyanese territory again, as the rainforest is very difficult to control. In addition, the French military has little legal control over smugglers and environmental sinners working in mafia-like structures. The miners, who carry out the actual work and take on great health and legal risks, are usually in a suppressed, slave-like working relationship with their donos (Portuguese) in the background, who often do not shy away from violence. The rising price of gold in recent years further exacerbates the problem.

In comparison with the gross domestic product of the EU expressed in purchasing power standards, French Guiana reaches an index of 57.6 (EU-25: 100) (2003). French Guiana is thus the poorest region in France. However, it is also necessary to consider the high self-sufficiency rate, which is not taken into account when calculating GDP. In 2017, the unemployment rate was 22.4%.

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