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. The smaller islands of Filfla and
Cominotto 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, which even many locals
have no idea how to locate, is the Ta' Dmejrek on Malta Island at 253
metres (830 ft) near Dingli.
Channel to the north separates Malta from the island of Sicily, the
largest Italian isle.
The local climate is Mediterranean temperate climate 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. Water 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.
to popular belief, the south of Malta is not Europe's most southern
point: Malta is Europe's 4th southernmost country (excluding France's
départements d'outre-mer and similar); Spain (Punta de Tarifa), Cyprus
and Greece (island of Gavdos), rank 3rd, 2nd, and 1st respectively.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 quality hotels are present
on the island.
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.
Regulation of financial services including banking, investment services,
insurance and accounting are of the highest level and have long followed
Maltese government entered ERM II in May 2005, and is intending to adopt
the euro as the country's currency on 1 January 2008.
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.
a republic enjoying representative democracy, whose parliamentary system
and public administration is closely modelled on the Westminster system.
The unicameral House of Representatives, known in Maltese as il-Kamra
tad-Deputati, 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 party who
wins the majority forms the cabinet. The House of Representatives is
made up of 65 Members of Parliament. However, where a party wins an
absolute majority of votes, but does not have a majority of seats, that
party (the cabinet) is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary
majority. By the Constitution of Malta, the President appoints the Prime
Minister, who in general is the leader of the party forming the cabinet.
President of the Republic is elected every five years by the House of
Representatives. The role of the president as head of state is highly
political parties are the Nationalist Party, which is a Christian
democratic party, and the Malta Labour Party, which is a social
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.
several other parties that have no parliamentary seats:
Alternattiva Demokratika, which is a Green Party.
Imperium Europa, led by Norman Lowell, which promotes Pan-European
Alpha Liberal Democratic Party, which is led by Drs. Emmy Bezzina and
Dr. John Zammit.
been inhabited since around 5200 BC. A significant prehistoric Neolithic
culture marked by Megalithic structures existed on the islands during
its pre-history, predating the Pyramids of Giza by a millenium.
Phoenicians colonized the islands around 1000 BC, using them as an
outpost from which they expanded sea explorations and trade in the
Temples, Qrendi, MaltaThe islands later came under the control of
Carthage (400 BC) 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. 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".
period of Byzantine rule (4th to 9th 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, irrigation systems, and most
notably, the Arabic language, which the majority of the population
adopted as their mother tongue. Its influence can be seen most
prominently in the modern Maltese language, which has also been heavily
influenced by Romance languages and is written in a variety of the Latin
period of Arab rule lasted until 1091, when the islands were taken by
the Sicilian Normans. Subsequent rulers included the Angevine, the
Hohenstaufen, and the Aragonese (1283). The Maltese nobility was
established during this period; some of it dating back to 1400. About 32
noble titles remain in use today, of which the oldest is "Barons of Djar
il Bniet and Buqana".
the islands were given by Spain to the Order of Knights of the Hospital
of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. (The Kingdom of Aragon had
owned the islands as part of their 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. The
Turks, 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.
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 Valetta. Grand
Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim capitulated, and Napoleon
stayed in Malta for a few days, during which 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. 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 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 protectorate, being
presented by several Maltese leaders to Sir Alexander Ball.
Fortifications of Malta harbor.In 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 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. The bravery of the Maltese people in their long struggle
against enemy attack led to them being awarded the George Cross on 15
April 1942, now included in the corner of the Flag of Malta.
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
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 joined the European Union on May 1, 2004.
It will be joining the Eurozone in 2008.
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
resident population of Malta, which foreigners residing in Malta for at
least a year, as at 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. Figures for 2005 are still unavailable.
all the censuses since 1842 there was always a slightly higher
female-to-male ratio. Closest to reaching equality were 1901 and 1911
censi. 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.
Population growth has slowed down, from +9.5% between the 1985 and 1995
censi, to +6.9% between the 1995 and 2005 censi (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 consistutes 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, brides aged 16 to 19 were 51 while grooms were 8.
national language of Malta is Maltese. The Maltese alphabet is based on
the Latin alphabet, but uses the diacritically altered letters ż, also
found in Polish, as well as the letters ċ, ġ and ħ, which are unique to
Maltese. The official languages are English and Maltese. Italian and
French are also widely spoken and taught in secondary schools, though
the latter less so.
Catholicism is the religion of approximately 95% of the population.
Maltese laws for immigration
generally follow EU legislation. Therefore EU nationals do not require a
visa nor a passport (an ID card or an expired passport are enough) to
enter the country. Citizens of a number of other countries are also 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. Immigrants are required to apply for a work
permit. This exception to EU law was agreed upon before accession to
safeguard the Maltese labour market, the growth of which is reaching
saturation [citations?]. 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 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
During 2005, a total of 1800
immigrants reached Malta illegally. Given Malta's high population
density, the impact of this figure on Malta is equivalent to that of an
arrival of 369,000 illegal immigrants in Germany and other large EU
member states. In the first half of 2006, 967 illegal immigrants arrived
in Malta - almost double the 473 who arrived in the same period in
2005. The reason for such high numbers is that since Malta is the
southernmost tip of the European Union and is therefore in the front
line when dealing with the heavy northward migration of illegal
immigrants from Africa; as well as to Malta's approximately 250,000
square kilometres of open sea search and rescue region.
Malta has historically been
generous, just and humane in welcoming illegal immigrants. More than
half the illegal immigrants landed in Malta have been granted refugee or
protected humanitarian status, which is the highest rate of acceptance
in the EU. 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
just about eight hundred East African Asians who had been expelled from
Uganda by Idi Amin and to just under a thousand Iraqis fleeing from
Saddam Hussein's regime.
Presently the problem of
illegal immigration has increased, with severe strains on Malta's
health, employment and social services, its internal security and public
order, its social fabric and on the labour market. In 2005, Malta sought
EU aid in relation to reception of illegal 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 illegal immigration which Malta
forms part of. Political 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
obbligations and East African countries, from which most central
Mediterranean illegal immigration originates, were excluded from the
Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development (to be held 10-11
July 2006 in Tripoli).
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. Most of the teachers' salary in Church
schools is paid by the state. Education in Malta is based on the British
The first years of education
in Malta are done in kindergarten. Attendance is up to 5 years and not
compulsory. Compulsory education starts at the age of 6 with primary
schooling has been compulsory since 1946; secondary education up to the
age of sixteen was made compulsory in 1971. The state and the Church
provide education free of charge, both running a number of schools in
Malta and Gozo, including De La Salle College in Cospicua, St. Aloysius'
College in Birkirkara, St. Joseph's School in Blata l-Bajda and Saint
Monica Girls' School in Mosta. A number of private schools are run in
Malta, including San Andrea School and San Anton School in the valley of
L-Imselliet (l/o Mġarr), St. Martin's College in Swatar and St.
Michael's School in San Ġwann. As of 2008[update], there are two
international schools, Verdala International School and QSI Malta. The
state pays a portion of the teachers' salary in Church schools.
in Malta is based on the British model. Primary school lasts six years.
At the age of 11 pupils sit for an examination to enter a secondary
school, either a church school (the Common Entrance Examination) or a
state school. Pupils sit for SEC O-level examinations at the age of 16,
with passes obligatory in certain subjects such as mathematics, English
and Maltese. Pupils may opt to continue studying at a sixth form college
such as Junior College, St Aloysius' College, De La Salle College, St
Edward's College or else at another post-secondary institution such as
MCAST. The sixth form course lasts for two years, at the end of which
students sit for the Matriculation examination. Subject to their
performance, students may then apply for an undergraduate degree or
University of Malta (U.o.M.) provides Tertiary education at diploma,
undergraduate and postgraduate level.
[Source: Wikipedia - Malta]