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Constitution of October 4, 1958 (as amended up to the Constitutional Law No. 2008-724 of July 23, 2008, on the Modernization of the Institutions of the Fifth Republic), France


Latest Version in WIPO Lex
Year of Version 2008 Dates Adopted: October 4, 1958 Type of Text Constitution/Basic Law Subject Matter Other Notes The current Constitution of France, often referred to as the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, was adopted on October 4, 1958. It has been amended 24 times, most recently on July 23, 2008. It is the fifteenth Constitution in the long constitutional history of France since the first Constitution of September 3, 1791.

The Preamble to the Constitution proclaims the French people's attachment to the Rights of Man and the principles of national sovereignty as determined by the Declaration of the 1789 and the Preamble to the 1946 Constitution, as well as to the rights and duties as defined in the Charter for the Environment of 2004. France is defined as an indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic, which is based on the principle “Government of the people, by the people and for the people', and the maxim “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”.

The state power is divided into the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The legislative power is exercised by a bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Assembly, whose members are elected by direct suffrage, and the Senate, whose members are elected by indirect suffrage.
The executive power is entrusted to the President and the Government headed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President. The judiciary is independent. The judicial system consists of criminal and civil courts, including commercial courts. The administrative system deals with disputes between the State and individuals

The French legal system belongs to civil law tradition, which evolved from the Napoleonic codes. The five original Napoleonic codes were the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure, the Commercial Code, the Criminal Code, and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The Parliament passes statutes (laws), which come into force after their promulgation by the President of the Republic and publication in “Journal Officiel”.
The Constitution grants exclusive power to the Parliament to enact laws in the following areas: public liberties, criminal law, taxation, property rights, , labor law, social security, and national defense.
The President and the Prime Minister issue regulations, which are called decrees and can be autonomous (Article 37: “Matters other than those coming under the scope of statute law shall be matters for regulation”) or taken to implement laws (Article 21). Moreover, the government can legislate within the legislative field of competence via ordinances (ordonnances) (Art. 38, lois d'habilitation that authorize the measures for a limited time, to be ratified by Parliament) and presidential decisions (Art. 16 on emergency powers).
Decisions of the Ministers or other implementing regulations are issued in many forms, such as arrêtés, circulars, and notices.
The Constitutional Council reviews the constitutionality of laws. The members of the Council are appointed by the President of the Republic, the President of the National Assembly and the President of the Senate.

The Constitution does not contain provisions on intellectual property. However, because intellectual property rights are considered as proprietary rights, they fall within the scope of Article 34 of the Constitution. Beside, this IP rights are protected by the Preamble of the Constitution as it gives a constitutional value to the Declaration of 1789, which Article 17 consecrate the right of property.

Available Texts Main text(s) Main text(s) English Constitution of October 4, 1958 (as amended up to the Constitutional Law No. 2008-724 of July 23, 2008, on the Modernization of the Institutions of the Fifth Republic) PDF HTML French Constitution du 4 octobre 1958 (telle que modifiée jusqu'à la loi constitutionnelle n° 2008-724 du 23 juillet 2008 de modernisation des institutions de la Ve République) PDF HTML Spanish Constitución de 4 de octubre 1958 (modificada por la Ley Constitucional N° 2008-724 de 23 de julio de 2008 de modernización de las instituciones de la Quinta República) PDF HTML

WIPO Lex No. FR076