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Repubblika ta' Malta
Republic of Malta
Flag of Malta Malta: Coat of Arms
(In Detail) (Full size)
Location of Malta
Official languages Maltese and English
Capital Valletta
Largest City Birkirkara
President Edward Fenech Adami
Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi
Religion 96.7% Catholicism
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 184th
316 km²
 - Total (2005)
 - Density
Ranked 175th
 - Date
From the UK
September 21, 1964
Currency Maltese Lira
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem L-Innu Malti
Internet TLD .mt
Calling Code +356
Patron Saints Saint Paul
St. Agatha
Pope Pius V
National bird Blue Rock Thrush
National plant Maltese Rock Centaury
National tree Tetraclinis Articulata (L-Għargħar)
National poet Dun Karm Psaila

The Republic of Malta is a small and densely populated island nation in southern Europe. It consists of an archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea directly south of Italy and north of Africa. These strategically located islands have been ruled and fought over by various powers over the centuries.

Contrary to popular belief, the south of Malta is not Europe's most southern point: Malta is Europe's 4th southernmost country; Spain (Punta de Tarifa), Cyprus and Greece (island of Gavdos), rank 3rd, 2nd, and 1st respectively.

Malta is the smallest EU country in terms of both population and area.



Main article: History of Malta

Malta has been inhabited since around 5200 BC. A significant prehistoric civilization, that predates the Pyramids of Giza by a millennium, is believed to have existed on the islands. The many ancient monuments and remains on Malta attest to the greatness of this civilization. Phoenicians colonized the islands at around 1000 BC, using it as an outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the Mediterranean. In 736 BC, they were occupied by the Greeks who called the colony "Melita".

These islands later came under the control of Carthage (400 BC) and then of Rome. The islands prospered under Roman rule, during which time it was considered a Municipium and a Feodorata Civitas. Many Roman antiquities still exist, testifying to the close link between the Maltese inhabitants and the people of Rome. In AD 60, the islands were visited by Saint Paul, who is said to have been shipwrecked on the shores of the aptly named Saint Paul's Bay.

After a short period of Byzantine rule, and a probable sack by the Vandals, the islands were conquered by the Arabs in AD 870. Their influence can be seen most prominently in the modern Maltese language, which is closely related to Arabic, though it has also been heavily influenced by Romance tongues. The Maltese alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet, but uses a number of diacritically altered letters not found in other Latin-based alphabets, such as ċ, ġ, and ħ. The period of Arab rule lasted until 1090, when the islands were taken by the Sicilian Normans, restoring Christianity again. Subsequent rulers included the Anjouvines, Hohenstaufen, and the Aragonese. The Maltese nobility was established during this period; some of it dating back to 1090. About 32 noble titles remain in use today, of which the oldest is Barons of Djar il Bniet and Buqana.

In 1530, the islands were given by Spain to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease (Aragon having owned the island as part of their Mediterranean empire for some time). These Knights, a militant monastic 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, who, at that time, were considered to be the greatest non-European military power. After this they decided to increase the fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named after Jean Parisot de la Valette, was built.

Their reign ended when Malta was captured by Napoleon in 1798 en route to his expedition of Egypt. As a ruse, Napoleon asked for safe harbor to resupply his ships, and then turned against his hosts once safely inside Valetta. The occupying French forces were unpopular, however, due particularly to their negative attitude towards religion. 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. 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 protectorate, being presented by several Maltese leaders to Sir Alexander Ball.

In 1814, as part of the Treaty of Paris, Malta officially became a part of the British Empire and was used as a shipping waystation and fleet headquarters. Malta's proximity to the Suez Canal proved to be its main asset during these years, and it was considered to be a most important stop on the way to India. In the 1930s, due to Malta's cultural and geographical proximity to Italy, the British Mediterranean Fleet was moved to Alexandria. Malta played an important role during World War II, owing to its vicinity to Axis shipping lanes, and its people's bravery led to the awarding of the George Cross now seen on its flag.

After the war, and after a short period of political instability due to 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 sovereign of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf, but on December 13, 1974 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 joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.


Main article: Politics of Malta

The unicameral House of Representatives, known in Maltese as Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti 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 65 MPs. However, where a party manages an absolute majority of votes, but not of seats, that party is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary majority. The Parliamentary system (as well as public administration) is closely modeled on the Westminster system

The President of the Republic is elected every five years by the House of Representatives.

The main political parties are the Nationalist Party which is Christian Democrat and the Malta Labour Party which is Social Democrat. There is also a Green Party (Alternattiva Demokratika) and a far right party (Imperium Europa) which, however, have no parliamentary seats. Two other small parties include the Alpha Party, led by Dr. Emmy Bezzina and the Communist Party (which did not participate in the latest elections) led by Tony Vassallo. The Nationalist Party is currently at the helm of the government, the Prime Minister being Dr. Lawrence Gonzi. The Malta Labour Party, under Dr. Alfred Sant, is in opposition.

Local councils

Main article: Local councils of Malta

In Maltese are called: Kunsilli Lokali

Since 1993, Malta has been subdivided into 68 local councils or localities. These form the most basic form of local government. There are no intermediate levels between local government and national government. The following lists the councils for the two main islands:

Island of Malta Island of Gozo


Map of Malta

Main article: Geography of Malta

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean Sea, some 93 km south of Sicily. Only the three largest islands Malta Island (Malta), Gozo (Għawdex), and Comino (Kemmuna) are inhabited. 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, which even many locals have no idea how to locate, is the Ta' Dmejrek on Malta Island at 253 m near Dingli.

The local climate is Mediterranean temperate climate with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. Effectively there are only two seasons, which makes the islands attractive for tourists especially during the drier months.


Main article: Economy of Malta

Until 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.

In 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.

By the end of the 19th century, the economy began declining and by the 1940s, Malta's economy was in serious crisis. This was due to invention of large ships which did not require refuelling.

Nowadays, 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.

Malta 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.


Malta has many museums, shops, beaches, and leisure activities in a densely packed area. It is a well-known popular vacation destination among Europeans. Although 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 to be finished by 2007.


Satellite image of Malta
Satellite image of Malta

Main article: Demographics of Malta

According to the last demographic survey (2003) the estimated population of the Malta at the end of that year (including non-Maltese residents) was 399,867 of whom 198,099 were males and 201,768 were females. This makes Malta the European country with the highest population density with 1,265 persons per square kilometre.

In the same year there was a net natural increase of 872 persons and a net inflow of 1,699 persons in the total population. Fertility rate has stabilised but with a crude birth rate of 10.06 Malta remains one of the "youngest" European populations (the 0-14 age group represents 18.2% of the total population).


Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 years. Whilst the state provides education free of charge, the church and the private sector run a number of schools in Malta and Gozo.

Education in Malta is as follows:

  • Kindergarten - up to 5 years (not compulsory)
  • Primary education is between 6-11
  • Secondary education up to 16 years
  • Post-Secondary Education (sixth form, vocational college as is MCAST for example) up to 18 years
  • Tertiary education is provided by the University of Malta.


Main article: Culture of Malta

See also

External links

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