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is a small and densely-populated island nation
comprising an archipelago of seven islands in
the Mediterranean Sea. A country of Southern Europe,
Malta lies south of Sicily, east of Tunisia, and
north of Libya. The country's official languages
are Maltese and English. Roman Catholicism is
the most practised religion but a significant
decline has been noted among young adults in recent
years. The islands constituting the Maltese nation
have been ruled by various powers - most recently
the United Kingdom - and fought over for centuries.
Malta is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
It has been a member state of the European Union
(EU) since 2004 and it is currently the smallest
EU country in both population and area.
settlements of Malta
is home to what is the oldest freestanding structure
in the world: the oldest of all the megalithic
temples on the islands is il-Ggantija, in Gozo
(Ghawdex) dating back to before 3500 BC. One of
the very earliest marks of civilization on the
islands is the temple of Hagar Qim, which dates
from between 3200 and 2500 BC, stands on a hilltop
on the southern edge of the island of Malta. Adjacent
to Hagar Qim, lies another remarkable temple site,
l-Imnajdra. The society that built these structures
eventually died out or at any rate disappeared.
Phoenicians colonized the islands around 700 BC,
using them as an outpost from which they expanded
sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean.
the fall of Tyre, the islands later came under
the control of Carthage (400 BC), a former Phoenician
colony, and then of Rome (218 BC). The islands
prospered under Roman rule, during which time
they were considered a Municipium and a Foederata
Civitas. Many Roman antiquities still exist, testifying
to the close link between the Maltese inhabitants
and the people of Rome. The island was a favorite
among Roman soldiers as a place to retire from
active service. In AD 60, the islands were visited
by Saint Paul, who is said to have been shipwrecked
on the shores of the aptly-named "San Pawl
il-Bahar". Studies of the currents and prevalent
winds at the time however, render it more likely
that the shipwreck occurred in or around Dahlet
San Tumas in Marsascala.
a period of Byzantine rule (fourth to ninth century)
and a probable sack by the Vandals, the islands
were conquered by the Arabs in AD 870. The Arabs,
who generally tolerated the population's Christianity,
introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits and
cotton, and irrigation systems. Arab influence
can be seen most prominently in the modern Maltese
language, a Semitic language which also contains
significant Romance influences, and is written
in a variation of the Latin alphabet.
period of Arab rule lasted until 1091, when the
islands were taken by the Siculo-Normans. A century
later the last Norman king, Tancredo di Lecce,
appointed Margarito di Brindisi the first Count
of Malta. Subsequent rulers included the Angevin,
Hohenstaufen, and Aragonese, who reconstituted
a County of Malta in 1283. The Maltese nobility
was established during this period; some of it
dating back to 1400. Around thirty-two noble titles
remain in use today, of which the oldest is the
Barony of Djar il-Bniet e Buqana.
Knights of Malta and Napoleon
1530, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain gave
the islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital
of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. (The
Crown of Aragon had owned the islands as part
of its Mediterranean empire for some time). These
knights, a military religious order now known
as the "Knights of Malta", had been
driven out of Rhodes by the Ottoman Empire in
1522. They withstood a full-blown siege by the
Ottoman Turks in 1565, at the time the greatest
naval power in the Mediterranean sea. After this
they decided to increase the fortifications, particularly
in the inner-harbour area, where the new city
of Valletta, named after Grand Master Jean de
la Valette, was built.
reign ended when Malta was captured by Napoleon
en route to his expedition of Egypt during the
French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. As a ruse,
Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his
ships, and then turned his guns against his hosts
once safely inside Valletta. The Grand Master
knew that he could only allow a few ships at a
time to enter the harbour, due to the Treaty of
Trent. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu
Bolheim capitulated, and Napoleon stayed in Malta
for a few days, during which time he systematically
looted the movable assets of the Order, and established
an administration controlled by his nominees.
He then sailed for Egypt, leaving a substantial
garrison in Malta.
occupying French forces were unpopular, however,
due particularly to their negative attitude towards
religion. Their financial and religious reforms
did not go down well with the citizens. The Maltese
rebelled against them, and the French were forced
behind the fortifications. Great Britain, along
with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, sent munitions
and aid to the rebels. Britain also sent her navy,
which instigated a blockade of the islands. The
isolated French forces, under General Claude-Henri
Belgrand de Vaubois, surrendered in 1800, and
the island became a British Dominion, being presented
by several Maltese leaders to Sir Alexander Ball.
British rule and World War II
1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially
became a part of the British Empire, and was used
as a shipping way-station and fleet headquarters.
Malta's position half-way between Gibraltar and
the Suez Canal proved to be its main asset during
these years, and it was considered to be an important
stop on the way to India.
the early 1930s, the British Mediterranean Fleet,
which was at the time the main contributor for
the commerce on the island, was moved to Alexandria
as an economic measure. Malta played an important
role during World War II, owing to its proximity
to Axis shipping lanes. The bravery of the Maltese
people in their long struggle against enemy attack
moved H.M. King George VI to award the George
Cross to Malta on a collective basis on 15 April
1942, "to bear witness to a heroism and devotion
that will long be famous in history". Some
historians argue that the award caused Britain
to incur disproportionate losses in defending
Malta, as British credibility would suffer if
Malta was subsequently surrendered to the Axis,
as Singapore had been. A replica of the George
Cross now appears in the upper hoist corner of
the Flag of Malta. The collective award remained
unique until April 1999 when the Royal Ulster
Constabulary also received a collective George
the war, and after the Malta Labour Party's unsuccessful
attempt at "Integration with Britain",
Malta was granted independence on September 21,
1964 (Independence Day). Under its 1964 constitution,
Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as
Queen of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising
executive authority on her behalf. On December
13, 1974 (Republic Day), however, it became a
republic within the Commonwealth, with the President
as head of state. A defence agreement signed soon
after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972)
expired on March 31, 1979 (Freedom Day) when the
British military forces were withdrawn. Malta
adopted an official policy of neutrality in 1980
and, for a brief period was a member of the Movement
of Non-Aligned Countries. In 1989, Malta was the
venue of an important summit between US President
Bush and Soviet leader Gorbachev, their first
face-to-face encounter, which signalled the end
of the Cold War.
joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. Following
the conclusions of the European Council of 21
to 22 June 2007 it will be joining the Eurozone
Politics and government
Politics of Malta
is a republic, whose parliamentary system and
public administration is closely modelled on the
Westminster system. The unicameral House of Representatives,
(Maltese: Il-Kamra tar-Rapprezentanti), is elected
by direct universal suffrage through single transferable
vote every five years, unless the House is dissolved
earlier by the President on advice of the Prime
Minister. The House of Representatives is made
up of sixty-five Members of Parliament. However,
where a party wins an absolute majority of votes,
but does not have a majority of seats, that party
is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary
majority. The Constitution of Malta provides that
the President appoint as Prime Minister the member
of the House who is best able to command a (governing)
majority in the House.
President of the Republic is elected every five
years by the House of Representatives. The role
of the president as head of state is largely ceremonial.
main political parties are the Nationalist Party,
which is a Christian democratic party, and the
Malta Labour Party, which is a social democratic
Nationalist Party is currently at the helm of
the government, the Prime Minister being Dr. Lawrence
Gonzi. The Malta Labour Party, led by Dr. Alfred
Sant, is in the opposition.
are a number of smaller political parties in Malta
that presently have no parliamentary representation.
Geography of Malta
is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean
Sea (in its eastern basin), some 93 km south of
the Italian island of Sicily across the Malta
Channel; east of Tunisia and north of Libya in
Africa. Only the three largest islands Malta Island
(Malta), Gozo (Ghawdex), and Comino (Kemmuna)
are inhabited. The smaller islands, such as Filfla,
Cominotto and the Islands of St. Paul are uninhabited.
Numerous bays along the indented coastline of
the islands provide good harbours. The landscape
is characterised by low hills with terraced fields.
The highest point is at Ta' Dmejrek on Malta Island
at 253 metres (830 ft) near Dingli. Although there
are some small rivers at times of high rainfall,
there are no permanent rivers or lakes on Malta.
However, some watercourses are found randomly
around the island that have fresh water running
all year round. Such places are Bahrija, Intahleb
and San Martin. Running water in Gozo is found
at Lunzjata Valley.
The island of Comino
The island of Comino
to popular belief, the south of Malta is not Europe's
most southern point; that distinction belongs
to the Greek island of Gavdos.
climate is Mediterranean (Köppen climate
classification Csa), with mild, rainy winters
and hot, dry summers. There is no real thermal
dormant season for plants, although plant growth
can be checked briefly by abnormal cold in winter
(patches of ground frost may occur in inland locales),
and summer heat and aridity may cause vegetation
to wilt. Effectively there are only two seasons,
which makes the islands attractive for tourists
especially during the drier months. However, strong
winds can make Malta feel cold during the spring
supply poses a problem on Malta, as the summer
is both rainless and also the time of greatest
water use, and the winter rainfall often falls
as heavy showers and runs off to the sea rather
than soaking into the ground. Malta depends on
underground reserves of fresh water, drawn through
a system of water tunnels called the Ta' Kandja
galleries, which average about 97 m. below surface
and extend like the spokes of a wheel. In the
galleries in Malta's porous limestone, fresh water
lies in a lens upon brine. More than half the
potable water of Malta is produced by desalination,
which creates further issues of fossil fuel use
January 2007, International Living chose Malta
as the country with the best climate in the world.
temperature ever recorded was in January 1905,
at +1.1C, and the highest temperature was +43.8C
recorded in August 1999. Snow is virtually unheard
of, with very few and brief snowflurries recorded
in February 1895, January 1905 and March 1949.
Month Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep
Oct Nov Dec
Avg high °C (°F) 21 (71) 15 (59) 15 (59)
16 (61) 18 (65) 22 (72) 27 (80) 30 (86) 30 (86)
28 (82) 24 (75) 19 (67) 16 (61)
Avg low temperature °C (°F) 15 (60) 9
(49) 9 (49) 10 (51) 12 (54) 15 (59) 19 (66) 22
(71) 22 (72) 20 (69) 18 (64) 14 (57) 11 (52)
Main article: Local councils of Malta
1994, Malta has been subdivided into sixty-eight
local councils. These form the most basic form
of local government. There are no intermediate
levels between local government and national government.
A list of them is below:
v • d • e
Local Councils of Malta and Gozo
· Balzan · Birgu (Città Vittoriosa)
· Birkirkara · Birzebbuga ·
Bormla (Città Cospicua) · Dingli
· Fgura · Floriana · Gharghur
· Ghaxaq · Gudja · Gzira
· Hamrun · Iklin · Isla (Senglea,
Città Invincita) · Kalkara ·
Kirkop · Lija · Luqa · Marsa
· Marsaskala (Wied il-Ghajn) · Marsaxlokk
· Mdina (Città Notabile) ·
Mellieha · Mgarr · Mosta ·
Mqabba · Msida · Mtarfa ·
Naxxar · Paola (Rahal Gdid) · Pembroke
· Pietà · Qormi (Città
Pinto) · Qrendi · Rabat ·
Safi · St. Julian's · San Gwann
· St. Paul's Bay · Santa Lucija
· Santa Venera · Siggiewi (Città
Ferdinand) · Sliema · Swieqi ·
Tarxien · Ta' Xbiex · Valletta (Città
Umilissima) · Xghajra · Zabbar (Città
Hompesch) · Zebbug (Città Rohan)
· Zejtun (Città Beland) ·
· Ghajnsielem · Gharb · Ghasri
· Kercem · Munxar · Nadur
· Qala · Rabat (Victoria) ·
San Lawrenz · Sannat · Xaghra ·
Xewkija · Zebbug
Main article: Economy of Malta
1800, Malta had very few industries except the
cotton, tobacco, and shipyards industry. The dockyard
was later used by the British for military purposes.
At times of war, Malta's economy prospered due
to its strategic location. This could be seen
during the Crimean War of 1854. This benefited
those who had a military role, as well as the
1869, the opening of the Suez Canal benefited
Malta's economy greatly as there was a massive
increase in the shipping which entered in the
port. Entrepôt trade saw many ships stopping
at Malta's docks for refuelling, which brought
great benefits to the population.
the end of the 19th century, the economy began
declining and by the 1940s, Malta's economy was
in serious crisis. This was partially due to the
longer range of newer merchant ships which required
less frequent refuelling stops.
Malta’s major resources are limestone, a
favourable geographic location, and a productive
labour force. Malta produces only about 20% of
its food needs, has limited freshwater supplies,
and has no domestic energy sources. The economy
is dependent on foreign trade (serving as a freight
trans-shipment point), manufacturing (especially
electronics and textiles), and tourism. Tourism
infrastructure has increased dramatically over
the years and a number of good-quality hotels
are present on the island. An increasing number
of Maltese now travel abroad on holiday. Although
they are still a net importer of tourism, the
ratio of inbound tourists to outbound tourists
is decreasing. Film production is a growing contributor
to the Maltese economy, with several big-budget
foreign films shooting in Malta each year. The
country has increased the exports of many other
types of services such as banking and finance.
important resource for the Republic is Human Resources.
The government is investing heavily in the country's
provision of education. As all education is free,
Malta is currently producing a pool of qualified
persons which heavily contribute to the country's
has recently privatised some state-controlled
firms and liberalised markets in order to prepare
for membership in the European Union, which it
joined on May 1, 2004. Malta and Tunisia are currently
discussing the commercial exploitation of the
continental shelf between their countries, particularly
for petroleum exploration.
Maltese government entered ERM II on 4 May 2005,
and will adopt the euro as the country's currency
on 1 January 2008. Maltese euro coins will
feature the Maltese cross.
in Malta, investments have been increasing and
the strength of the Maltese Economy is increasing.
A fine example is SmartCity, which, when fully
completed, will provide well over 5600 new jobs.
Malta is now a member of the European Union, it
is not a member of the Schengen Treaty yet. It
is currently adopting Schengen regulations with
the goal of joining in March 2008.
Main article: Armed Forces of Malta
objectives of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM)
are to maintain a military organisation with the
primary aim of defending the Islands' integrity
according to the defence roles as set by Government
in an efficient and cost effective manner. This
is achieved by emphasizing the maintenance of
Malta's territorial waters and airspace integrity.
AFM also engages in combating terrorism, fighting
against illicit drug trafficking, conducting anti-illegal
immigrant and anti-illegal fishing operations,
operating Search and Rescue (SAR) services, and
physical/electronic security/surveillance of sensitive
locations. Malta's Search and Rescue area extends
from east of Tunisia to west of Crete covering
an area of around 250,000 km².
a military organisation, the AFM provides backup
support to the Malta Police Force (MPF) and other
government departments/agencies in situations
as required in an organised, disciplined manner
in the event of national emergencies (such as
natural disasters) or internal security and bomb
another level, the AFM establishes and/or consolidates
bilateral co-operation with other countries to
reach higher operational effectiveness related
to AFM roles.
Main article: Demographics of Malta
census of population and housing is held every
ten years. The last census was held over three
weeks in November 2005 and managed to enumerate
an estimated 95% of the population. A preliminary
report was issued in April 2006, and results were
weighted to an estimate for 100% of the population.
resident population of Malta, which includes foreigners
residing in Malta for at least a year, as of 27
November 2005 was estimated at 404,039 of whom
200,715 (49.7%) were males and 203,324 (50.3%)
were females. Of these, 17.1 per cent were aged
14 and under, 68.2 per cent were within the 15–64
age bracket whilst the remaining 13.7 per cent
were 65 years and over. Malta's population density
of 1,282 per square kilometre (3,322/sq mi) is
by far the highest in the EU, and one of the highest
in the world. The only census year showing a fall
in population was that of 1967, with a 1.7% total
decrease, attributable to a substantial number
of Maltese residents who emigrated. The Maltese-resident
population for 2004 was estimated to make up 97.0%
of the total resident population.
all the censuses since 1842 there was always a
slightly higher female-to-male ratio. Closest
to reaching equality were 1901 and 1911 censuses.
The highest female-to-male ratio was reached in
1957 (1088:1000), and since the ratio has been
constantly dropping. The 2005 census showed a
1013:1000 female-to-male ratio.
growth has slowed down, from +9.5% between the
1985 and 1995 censuses, to +6.9% between the 1995
and 2005 censuses (a yearly average of +0.7%).
The birth rate stood at 3860 (a decrease of 21.8%
from the 1995 census) and the death rate stood
at 3025. Thus, there was a natural population
increase of 835 (compared to +888 for 2004, of
which over a hundred were foreign residents).
population's age composition is similar to the
age structure prevalent in the EU. Since 1967
there was observed a trend indicating an aging
population, and is expected to continue in the
foreseeable future. Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio
rose from 17.2% in 1995 to 19.8% in 2005, reasonably
lower than the EU's 24.9% average. In fact, 31.5%
of the Maltese population is aged under 25 (compared
to the EU's 29.1%); but the 50-64 age group constitutes
20.3% of the population, significantly higher
than the EU's 17.9%. In conclusion, Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio
is expected to continue rising steadily in the
legislation recognizes both civil and Canonic
marriages. Annulments by the ecclesiastic and
civil courts are unrelated and are not necessarily
both granted. There is no divorce legislation
and abortion within Maltese territory is illegal.
A person has to be 16 to marry. The number of
brides aged under 25 decreased from 1471 in 1997
to 766 in 2005; while the number of grooms under
25 decreased from 823 to 311. There is a constant
trend that females are more likely than males
to marry very young. In 2005, there were 51 brides
aged between 16 and 19, compared to 8 grooms.
Main article: Maltese language
national language of Malta is Maltese, a Semitic
language which descended from Maghrebi Arabic,
with many borrowings from Italian and, in particular,
Maltese alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet,
but uses the diacritically altered letters z,
also found in Polish, as well as the letters c,
g, gh, h and ie, which are unique to Maltese.
The official languages are Maltese and English.
Italian was an official language of Malta until
the 1930s, and is widely spoken as a second or
third language. French, Arabic, German and
Spanish, amongst other languages, are taught as
foreign languages in secondary schools.
The Mosta Dome
The Mosta Dome
Main article: Religion in Malta
Constitution of Malta provides for freedom of
religion but establishes Roman Catholicism as
the state religion. Freedom House and the
World Factbook report that 98 percent of the population
is Roman Catholic, making the nation one of the
most Catholic countries in the world. The Sunday
Mass Attendance Census 2005 commissioned by
the The Archdiocese of Malta reports that 52.6%
of the population attends regular religious services.
This is one of the highest rate of attendance
22% of the population is reported to be active
in a church group, movement or community. Malta
has the highest concentration of members per capita
of the Neocatechumenal Way in the world, since
it was introduced in the islands in 1973 by three
Italian catechists, who started the first community
in the Immaculate Conception Parish in Hamrun.
Patron Saints are Saint Paul, Saint Agata and
Saint George Preca, known as Dun Gorg - the first
Maltese saint, canonized on 3 June 2007 by Pope
are also some churches of other denominations,
such as St. Andrew's Scots Church in Valletta
(a joint Presbyterian and Methodist congregation)
and St Paul's Anglican Cathedral.
nationals require neither a visa nor a passport
(an ID card or an expired passport are enough)
to enter the country. Citizens of a number of
third countries are not required to apply for
a visa and require only a valid passport when
residing in Malta for up to three months. Visas
for other nationalities are valid for one month.
even those with EU citizenship, are required to
apply for a work permit. This exception to EU
law was agreed upon before accession to safeguard
the Maltese labour market. In practice though,
all work permits to EU nationals are granted and
currently this exercise is only used to monitor
the labour market for any needed intervention.
The safeguards negotiated in Malta's accession
have never been put into effect and it is unlikely
that they will.
estimated net inflow (using data for 2002 to 2004)
was of 1,913 persons yearly. Over the last 10
years, Malta accepted back a yearly average of
425 returning emigrants.
2006, a total of 1,800 illegal immigrants reached
Malta making the boat crossing from the North
Africa coast. Most of them intended to reach mainland
Europe and happened to come to Malta by mistake.
Given Malta's high population density, the impact
of this figure on Malta is equivalent to that
of an arrival of 369,000 irregular immigrants
in Germany and other large EU member states.
In the first half of 2006, 967 irregular immigrants
arrived in Malta – almost double the 473
who arrived in the same period in 2005.
45% of immigrants landed in Malta have been granted
refugee (5%) or protected humanitarian status
(40%). A White Paper suggesting the grant of Maltese
citizenship to refugees resident in Malta for
over ten years was issued in 2005. Historically
Malta gave refuge (and assisted in their resettlement)
to eight hundred or so East African Asians who
had been expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin and
to just under a thousand Iraqis fleeing Saddam
the problem of illegal immigration has increased
steadily, causing real or perceived strains on
Malta's health, employment and social services,
its internal security and public order and labour
market. Detention costs for the first half of
2006 alone cost Lm320,423 (€746,385).
2005, Malta sought EU aid in relation to reception
of irregular immigrants, repatriation of those
denied refugee status, resettlement of refugees
into EU countries, and maritime security.
In December 2005, the European Council adopted
The Global Approach to Migration: Priority Actions
focusing on Africa and the Mediterranean; but
the deployment of said actions has been limited
to the western Mediterranean, thus putting further
pressure on the central Mediterranean route for
irregular immigration of which Malta forms a part.
tension started developing as the EU persistently
ignored Malta's precarious situation: member states
party to the legally-binding Cotonou Agreement
continued not to fulfill their obligations and
East African countries, from which most central
Mediterranean irregular immigration originates,
were excluded from the Euro-African Conference
on Migration and Development held 10-11 July 2006
is compulsory between the ages of 3 and 16 years.
While the state provides education free of charge,
the Church and the private sector run a number
of schools in Malta and Gozo. Most of the teachers'
salary in Church schools is paid by the state.
in Malta is based on the British Model.Tertiary
education at diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate
level is mainly provided by the University of
adult literacy rate is 92.8%.
Main article: Culture of Malta
culture of Malta is a reflection of various cultures
that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands
throughout the centuries, including neighbouring
Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the
nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time
prior to its independence in 1964.
cuisine is the result of a long relationship between
the Islanders and the many foreigners who made
Malta their home over the centuries. This marriage
of tastes has given Malta an eclectic mix of Mediterranean
cooking. Many popular Maltese specialities are
Italian/Sicilian or Moorish in origin.
Main article: Music of Malta
Maltese music today is largely western, traditional
Maltese music includes what is known as ghana.
This consists of background folk guitar music,
while a few people take it in turns to argue a
point in a singsong voice. The aim of the lyrics,
which are improvised, are to create a friendly
yet challenging atmosphere, and takes a number
of years of practice to be able to combine the
required artistic qualities with the ability to
debate effectively. (Credit: