So how is France in the year 2015?
Elements of the right-wing Anglo press, certain disenchanted French expats, or even your classic morose Frenchman who has stayed at home, have been highlighting, perhaps even in revelling in the country's decline for years.
A new 128-page survey, named The State of France in 2015 has tried to determine the health of the country, three years in to the presidency of Socialist François Hollande and at a time when the country's economic growth has ground to a halt.
While the report by France's Economic, Social and Environmental Council (CESE) is at pains to point out the positives, of which there are many (they can be read by clicking here) it has also stressed a number of challenges facing the country in part because old problems have not been dealt with.
Here's a look at the main problems facing France in 2015.
Les Banlieues, or poor city suburbs, have been a source of concern in France for years, yet in 2015 nothing seems to have changed.
Often located on the outskirts of town, where transport links and job prospects are poor, the suburbs are marked by high tower blocks housing lower class families, many of whom are immigrants struggling to get by in a country that does not feel like home.
The problem of the neglected banlieues made world headlines in 2005, when riots erupted across the country. Ten years on and little appears to have changed, despite various attempts.
The CESE report says banlieues have become the “principal victims of the crisis and of the fragmentation of French Society.”
Ten million French people live in these neighbourhoods. In some of the more deprived neighbourhoods the unemployment rate among young men is 45 percent.
Rural France in dangerous decline
France has long suffered from high unemployment rates that despite favourable conditions such as a weak euro and a fall in petrol prices have so far stubbornly refused to drop.
In its report, CESE makes it clear that high unemployment is “the most dangerous threat” to France’s national cohesion. It suggests the government's attempts to deal with the rising figures are inadequate and has called on ministers to carry out a “complete evaluation” of the policies that have been put in place to try to reduce the jobless rate.
A major concern for France is the number of people and in particular the number of children living in poverty in 2015.
The most recent stats from INSEE show one in five children live below the poverty line as do 14 percent of the population.
And those figures don’t even include the homeless, prisoners and those living in retirement homes, who are normally among the poorest.