Angela Merkel Nicolas Sarkozy

The EU is relying on France and Germany to financially back its crumbling economy.

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Public debt as percentage of GDP: 82

Population: 65 million

Parlez-vous global recession? France is taking a crash course in global recession 101 as it struggles to maintain its prized AAA credit rating and help support the European Union's interconnected banking system. So far, the Gallic government has yet to start writing checks that it can't cash, and economic forecasts predict that its debt-to-GDP ratio will halt before it reaches 90 percent [source: Reuters]. Whether that will hold, however, largely depends on how the European Union (EU) weathers the financial crisis as a whole. For instance, if the Greek financial system collapses, France and Germany may have to toss out a life raft in the form of public funding from their own coffers.

In an effort to remain fiscally stable, France has instituted public spending cuts and is working toward a projected 2 percent economic growth in 2011 [source: Reuters]. However, the country must also address its massive private sector debt, which hovers around 150 percent of the GDP [source: The New York Times].