|THE MALTA COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Malta within the continent of Europe
Map of Malta
Flag Description of Malta:The Malta flag was officially adopted on September 21, 1964.
The flag of this island nation uses the traditional red and white colors of the Knights of Malta. The George Cross (upper left), outlined in red, was added to the flag in the 1940s, as King George VI of Britain presented it to islanders for outstanding gallantry during World War II.
Official name Repubblika ta’ Malta (Maltese); Republic of Malta (English)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house (Kamra tad-Deputati, or House of Representatives )
Head of state President: Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
Head of government Prime Minister: Joseph Muscat
Official languages Maltese; English
Official religion Roman Catholicism
Monetary unit euro (€)
Population (2013 est.) 419,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 122
Total area (sq km) 315
- Urban: (2009) 94.4%
- Rural: (2009) 5.6%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2011) 78.4 years
- Female: (2011) 82.6 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2005) 91.7%
- Female: (2005) 93.9%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 19,760
1Current number as of March 2013 elections; statutory number equals 65. The additional 5 members include 4 indirectly elected in accordance with the constitution and the speaker.
Background of Malta
Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both world wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964; a decade later it declared itself a republic. Since about the mid-1980s, the island has transformed itself into a freight transshipment point, a financial center, and a tourist destination. Malta became an EU member in May 2004 and began using the euro as currency in 2008.
Malta, island country located in the central Mediterranean Sea. A small but strategically important group of islands, the archipelago has through its long and turbulent history played a vital role in the struggles of a succession of powers for domination of the Mediterranean and in the interplay between emerging Europe and the older cultures of Africa and the Middle East. As a result, Maltese society has been molded by centuries of foreign rule by various powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Swabians, Aragonese, Hospitallers, French, and British.
The island of Malta specifically played a vital strategic role in World War II as a base for the Allied Powers. It was heavily bombarded by German and Italian aircraft, and by the end of the war Malta was devastated. In 1942 the island of Malta was presented with the George Cross, a British award for great gallantry, in recognition of the wartime bravery of the Maltese people. After the war, the movement for self-governance became stronger. The country of Malta became independent from Britain and joined the Commonwealth in 1964 and was declared a republic on Dec. 13, 1974. It was admitted to the European Union (EU) in 2004. A European atmosphere predominates in Malta as a result of close association with the Continent, particularly with southern Europe. The Maltese are renowned for their warmth, hospitality, and generosity to strangers, a trait that was noted in the Acts of the Apostles, with respect to the experience of St. Paul, the Apostle, who was said to have been shipwrecked off Malta in 60 ce.
Roman Catholicism is a major influence on Maltese culture. Various traditions have evolved around religious celebrations, notably those honouring the patron saints of towns and villages. The eight-pointed, or Maltese, cross, adopted by the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem in 1126, is commonly linked with Malta’s identity and is printed on the country’s euro coin. Valletta is the capital city.
Geography of Malta
The country comprises five islands—Malta (the largest), Gozo, Comino, and the uninhabited islets of Kemmunett (Comminotto) and Filfla—lying some 58 miles (93 km) south of Sicily, 180 miles (290 km) north of Libya, and about 180 miles (290 km) east of Tunisia, at the eastern end of the constricted portion of the Mediterranean Sea separating Italy from the African coast.
The islands of Malta are dominated by limestone formations, and much of their coastlines consist of steep or vertical limestone cliffs indented by bays, inlets, and coves. They lie on the submerged Malta-Hyblean Platform, a wide undersea shelf bridge that connects the Ragusa Platform of southern Sicily with the Tripolitana Platform of southern Libya.
The main physical characteristic of the island of Malta is a well-defined escarpment that bisects it along the Victoria Lines Fault running along the whole breadth of the island from Point ir-Raħeb near Fomm ir-Riħ Bay to the coast northeast of Għargħur at Madliena Fort. The highest areas are coralline limestone uplands that constitute a triangular plateau; Ta’ Żuta, which rises to 830 feet (253 metres) in the southwest, is the highest point. The uplands are separated from the surrounding areas by blue clay slopes, while an undercliff area is found where the coralline plateau has fallen and forms a subordinate surface between the sea and the original shore. The total shoreline of Malta is about 136 miles (219 km).
In northern Malta the escarpment is occasionally abrupt and broken by deep embayments. To the south, however, the plateau gradually descends from about 600 to 830 feet (180 to 250 metres) into undulating areas of globigerina (derived from marine protozoa) limestone less than 300 feet (90 metres) in elevation. The western area is characterized by deeply incised valleys and undercliff areas, while to the east there are several valley systems that descend to the central plains.
The west coast of Malta presents a high, bold, and generally harbourless face. On the east, however, a tongue of high ground known as Mount Sceberras, on which the capital city, Valletta, is built, separates Marsamxett Harbour and Grand Harbour. Because of tectonic activity, Malta has been tilted in a northerly direction, producing cliffs of up to about 800 feet (250 metres) high on the south and southwestern coasts, while slopes descend to low cliffs and rocky shores on the northern and eastern coasts.
The landscape of the island of Gozo is characterized by broken upper coralline mesas, with the highest point being Ta’ Dbiegi Hill (636 feet [194 metres]). Gozo has a gentle easterly dip, so the lower coralline limestone, which forms high cliffs on the west coast, declines to below sea level but reappears on the east coast at Qala Point. Semicircular bays have formed on coastal cliffs where sinkholes have been invaded by the sea. The rounded bays at Xlendi and Dwejra on the west coast of Gozo originated as underground caverns with roofs that have collapsed.
The island of Malta possesses favourable conditions for the percolation and underground storage of water. The impermeable blue clays provide two distinct water tables between the limestone formations—the perched and the mean sea-level aquifer. The principal source for the public supply of water has for several centuries been the main sea-level water table. The absence of permanent streams or lakes and a considerable runoff into the sea, however, have made water supply a problem, which has been addressed with an intensive reverse-osmosis desalination program. About half of Malta’s daily water needs are supplied by desalination plants throughout the islands.
Mainly young or immature and thin, Maltese soils generally lack humus, and a high carbonate content gives them alkaline properties. Human settlement and construction developments have altered the distribution and composition of soils. The Fertile Soil (Preservation) Act of 1973 requires that, when soils are removed from construction sites, they be taken to agricultural areas, and level stretches in quarries are often covered with carted soil.
The climate of Malta is typically Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers, warm and sporadically wet autumns, and short, cool winters with adequate rainfall. More than three-fourths of the total annual rainfall of about 22 inches (550 mm) falls between October and March; June, July, and August are normally quite dry.
The temperature is very stable, with the annual mean in the mid-60s F (about 19 °C) and monthly averages ranging from the mid-50s F (about 12 °C) to the mid-80s F (about 29 °C). Winds can be strong and frequent; the most prevalent are the cool northwesterly (the majjistral), the dry northeasterly (the grigal), and the hot and humid southeasterly (the xlokk, or sirocco). The relative humidity rarely falls below 40 percent.
Plant and animal life
Malta’s flora and fauna are typical of the low-lying coastal regions of the Mediterranean. Excessive exploitation of the forests for timber and the clearance of land for construction and agriculture have destroyed much of Malta’s woodlands, though a few stands of holm oak remain. Aleppo pine has been successfully reintroduced. Maquis, a scrubby underbrush, is found along valleys and below escarpments and consists of lentisk, carob, olive, bay laurel, and in some places the sandarac gum tree (Malta’s national tree). Garigue, a low-growing Mediterranean scrub, is the most common vegetation in Malta and covers much of the country’s limestone plateau. The steppe in Malta is dominated by various grasses, thistles, and leguminous and bulbous plants. Reed beds occur wherever there is abundant freshwater, and club mosses, sedges and grasses are found in wetlands. Glassworts, rushes, and seablites are native to the salt marshlands. Sand couch, sea kale, and sea daffodils are found on Malta’s few remaining coastal dunes, while golden samphire, rock samphire, and sea lavenders (several of which are endemic) are characteristic of low-lying rocky coasts. Cliffs and coastal screes support many of Malta’s native species, which include monotypic genera such as the Maltese cliff-orache (Cremnophyton lanfrancoi) and the Maltese rock-centaury (Palaeocyanus crassifolius), the latter of which is the national plant.
The native mammals in Malta include a subspecies of the Sicilian shrew and several types of bats. Most of the country’s other mammals, including the Algerian hedgehog, Mediterranean chameleon, Etruscan shrew, rabbit, and weasel, have been introduced. Native reptiles include the Maltese wall lizard, the ocellated skink, the Moorish and the Turkish gecko, the western whip snake, and the leopard snake. The only amphibian in Malta is the painted frog, a species endemic to Sicily and Malta. Invertebrates, including insects, arachnids, and snails, are abundant.
Although there are relatively few breeding birds, migrating species are plentiful. Sea birds include the storm petrel and the Mediterranean and Cory’s shearwaters. Among the most notable birds are the Spanish sparrow, which is the most common bird in Malta, and the blue rock thrush, Malta’s national bird.
Demography of Malta
- Ethnic groups
Malta’s population is composed almost entirely of ethnic Maltese, the descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians as well as of Italians and other Mediterranean peoples. Attempts to form a unifying and homogenizing Maltese ethnicity can be traced back to the late 13th century; these efforts were consolidated in the nationalistic discourses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Aside from the Maltese population, there are small communities of British nationals, Sindhis, Palestinians, and Greeks on the islands. Since the 1990s influxes of more transient but no less significant groups have arrived from North Africa, the Balkans, and, in the early 2000s, from countries of sub-Saharan Africa.
Maltese and English are the official languages of Malta as well as official languages of the EU. Maltese resulted from the fusion of North African Arabic and a Sicilian dialect of Italian. It is the only Semitic language officially written in Latin script. English is a medium of instruction in schools. Italian was the language of church and government until 1934 and is still understood by a sizable portion of the population.
Roman Catholicism is the official religion of Malta, but there is full freedom of religious belief. More than nine-tenths of Maltese are nominally Roman Catholic; however, only about three-fifths of these practice their faith. The islands are an independent province of the church, with an archdiocese in Malta and a diocese in Gozo. Very small numbers of Maltese are adherents of other Christian denominations or of Islam. There are Roman Catholic cathedrals at Mdina and Valletta, an Anglican cathedral at Valletta, and a mosque at Corradino Heights.
- Settlement patterns
During the 16th and 17th centuries, under the rule of the Knights of Malta (Hospitallers), the country evolved as a maritime power, and, by the late 17th century, Valletta and other towns were thriving maritime centres. By the mid-19th century the Maltese lived mainly in the relative seclusion of clustered villages and hamlets; the fragmentation of farm holdings accentuated the individuality of the farming community. The zuntier, a parvis forming part of the church square, was the traditional focus of village life.
During the British occupation of Malta (1800–1964), the growth of the dockyard complex resulted in the ongoing development of new settlements around Grand Harbour. In the 20th century the Sliema region, just north of Marsamextt Harbour, became the most fashionable part of Malta and by the early 21st century had become a commercial and tourist centre. Following the country’s independence in 1964, the advent of industrial estates located near major villages somewhat increased urbanization, but higher living standards have given rise to residential developments all over Malta island; its central areas are now densely populated. Overbuilding has been a cause for serious concern, spawning legislation meant to protect the environment.
The essentially rural character of Gozo’s many hilltop settlements has been largely preserved in the new housing that has rapidly increased there since the 1990s. Victoria, in the south-central part of the island, is the administrative and commercial centre of Gozo. More rural still is Comino, which is mostly inhabited by tourists.
- Demographic trends
Malta has one of the highest population densities in the world, though the increase in the country’s population has somewhat leveled off since the mid-20th century, with a considerable decline in the birth rate. At the same time, the death rate has remained fairly stable, having fallen only slightly, while the infant mortality rate has dropped significantly.
Following World War II, mass emigration was encouraged and even financed by the government because of high unemployment on the islands. From 1945 until the mid-1970s about 150,000 people left Malta and Gozo and settled in other English-speaking countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia). By the 1990s, however, emigration had tapered off, and many Maltese expatriates began returning to their homeland.
Economy of Malta
Until the mid-1960s the Maltese economy depended heavily on the British military presence in Malta. In the 1950s Britain began to withdraw its armed forces, which necessitated a drastic diversification of the economy. A series of development plans after 1959 were supported by government grants, loans, and other fiscal incentives to encourage private investment. Import and capital controls, which were extensive until the second half of the 1980s, were progressively dismantled during the 1990s, moving Malta toward a more market-driven economy as the Maltese government pursued a policy of gradual privatization beginning in 1999. Capital controls were fully lifted only when Malta was acceded to the European Union (EU) in 2004. The Maltese economy faces major constraints because of its small domestic market, and it depends on other countries for many imported goods.
- Agriculture and fishing
Agricultural development is hampered by land fragmentation (that is, plots of land resulting from decollectivization that are too small or too irregularly configured to be farmed efficiently), shallow soils, and lack of adequate water supplies. Most farming is carried out on small terraced strips of land that preclude the introduction of large-scale mechanization. As a result of the growth of urbanization, the agricultural labour force has become increasingly older, and more farming is done on a part-time basis; nevertheless, production has risen gradually because of improved techniques in the cultivation of some crops, especially horticultural ones. The major crops are potatoes, tomatoes, and fruit (especially citrus and drupes). Since the late 1990s there has been a substantial increase in grapevine and olive production. Malta is generally self-sufficient in food production, but beef is mostly imported. Upon the country’s accession into the EU, Malta’s agricultural sector became competitive.
Fishing is seasonal and, to a large extent, undertaken on an artisanal basis. The common dolphin fish (Coryphaena hippuras) and the bluefin tuna (Thunnus), however, are caught for export. Aquaculture, introduced in Malta in the late 1980s, has surpassed fishing as a source of income. The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and the gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata) are grown in floating sea cages, and the bluefin tuna from the sea are fattened on farms for four to six months before export. After Malta joined the EU, Maltese fishermen benefited from funding programs, particularly to promote the export of tuna.
- Resources and power
Malta is poorly endowed with natural resources, and its only exploited mineral resource is limestone, which is quarried and used for construction. Offshore oil exploration has been under way since the mid-1990s, but no significant oil reserves have been discovered. Fossils fuels are imported and supply all of Malta’s energy. There are thermal power stations on both Malta and Gozo.
Industrial development began in earnest in the second half of the 1960s, and by the early 21st century the manufacturing sector was contributing about one-fifth of gross domestic product (GDP). Since the 1980s the manufacture of computer parts, instruments, and electronics, as well as of a large variety of consumer products (toys, cosmetics, detergents, and foodstuffs), has been important. In the early 2000s, light manufacturing (pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, and automotive and airplane parts, along with software) replaced much of the low-cost labour-intensive production that had earlier played a more important role in Maltese manufacturing. Pharmaceutical production in particular has grown rapidly as a result of the patent law advantages that Malta gained upon EU membership.
Shipbuilding and repair have been the foundation of Malta’s economy since the Knights of Malta (Hospitallers) transferred Malta’s administrative centre from the medieval inland location of Mdina to present-day Valletta in the Grand Harbour area in 1570. Since the mid-20th century, however, the shipbuilding industry has consistently operated at a loss and had been dependent upon government subsidies. Efforts aimed at engendering financial sustainability during the late 20th century were not successful. Upon EU accession, such subsidies were no longer permissible, and the Maltese government has taken steps to reduce and privatize the industry.
The Central Bank of Malta was founded in 1968. Malta’s former currency, the lira, was adopted in 1972. On Jan. 1, 2008, the euro became the country’s official currency. The banking system remains highly concentrated, with half of the local commercial banks accounting for about nine-tenths of total loans and deposits. The Malta Financial Services Authority, established in 2002, is an autonomous body and the single regulator for financial services, taking over supervisory functions that were formerly carried out by the Central Bank of Malta, the Malta Stock Exchange, and the Malta Financial Services Centre. The Maltese government encourages and facilitates direct foreign investment, which began to increase in the early 2000s. While the private sector still consists mostly of small enterprises, there are some internationally owned companies operating in Malta, mostly in the pharmaceutical, automotive, and electronics sectors.
Malta imports machinery and transport equipment, chemical products, and mineral fuels. The country’s main export products are semiconductors, but it also exports other manufactured goods and refined petroleum. Italy, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Singapore are Malta’s major trading partners.
Services account for about half of Malta’s GDP and employ about three-fifths of the labour force. Tourism is a major source of income and follows a seasonal pattern, with June through October being the peak season. Some notable tourist sites include the ancient megalithic temple Ġgantija on Gozo and the temples of Ħaġar Qim, Mnajdra, and Tarxien on Malta; this group of temples was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980. Also on Malta are spectacular medieval castles and cathedrals, as well as the ancient inland capital of Mdina. Tourism has had a major impact on the natural environment of the Maltese islands, and the government has attempted to promote ecotourism.
- Labour and taxation
The majority of Malta’s workforce is employed in the manufacturing and services sectors. Women make up about one-third of the workforce. The public sector is to a very large extent unionized. In the private sector, most large enterprises are unionized. Malta has two chief labour unions—the General Workers’ Union, Malta’s largest union, and the Union of United Workers—as well as a confederation of smaller sectoral unions, each of which came into being around the mid-20th century. Although unions are independent of political parties, they have tended to occupy a central role in national issues and at times have operated on the basis of the party affiliations of their members.
The bulk of government tax revenue comes from a progressive income tax system. There is a value-added tax on consumer goods and services. Taxes on real-estate transactions also contribute to government revenue.
- Transportation and telecommunications
The island of Malta’s road system connects all towns and villages and includes a coast road and a panoramic road. Bus services radiating from Valletta provide inexpensive and frequent internal transportation. Taxis and rented vehicles are available on the island. Most families own automobiles, and the number of cars per household is one of the highest in Europe. There is no railway. Ferry services operate between Malta and Gozo, and Malta and Sicily are connected by both ferry and high-speed catamaran. The national airline, Air Malta, connects Malta with most European capitals as well as with North Africa, the Middle East, and North America. Since 2007 a number of low-cost airlines have offered services to and from Malta.
Malta’s telecommunications sector was fully liberalized in 2004, after Malta joined the EU. The mobile phone penetration rate increased substantially in the early 21st century; the majority of the inhabitants now use cellular telephones, while the number of fixed-line phone lines has remained relatively static. Internet usage increased as well. The Malta Communications Authority, established in 2001, is the regulatory body of the telecommunications sector.
Government and Society of Malta
The 1964 constitution, under which Malta became an independent monarchy and parliamentary state, was amended in 1974 to make Malta a republic within the Commonwealth. Malta is currently a unitary multiparty republic. The Maltese parliament consists of a unicameral House of Representatives and is fashioned on the British model. Members of the parliament are elected by proportional representation for five-year terms. An amendment adopted in 1996 guarantees a majority of seats to a party receiving more than 50 percent of the total votes cast in the general election. The parliament appoints the president, who is head of state. The president acts on the advice of the cabinet, which is headed by the prime minister, who is the head of the government.
Local government was established in Malta in 1993. The country is divided into 68 localities, 14 of which are in Gozo. Each locality is administered by a local council elected by the residents of the locality by proportional representation every three years. The Department for Local Government oversees the councils.
Maltese law, which was codified mainly during the period from 1854 to 1873, is largely based on the Napoleonic Code and Napoleonic law. Criminal proceedings and fiscal and maritime legislation follow English common law, but judicial precedent is not binding. Maltese is the language of the courts. Civil and criminal jurisdiction is almost exclusively vested in the Superior Courts and the Court of Magistrates. The chief justice and other members of the judiciary are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister.
Maltese citizens aged 18 and older are eligible to vote. The island is deeply polarized in its politics; since independence the two major parties, the Nationalist Party (Partit Nazzjonalista; PN) and the Malta Labour Party (Partit Laburista; MLP), have alternated in power. The Democratic Alternative (Alternattiva Demokratika; AD), also known as the Maltese Green Party, is Malta’s third party but has not secured a parliamentary seat since its founding in 1989. Voter turnout in Malta has traditionally been high, with generally more than nine-tenths of eligible voters casting ballots.
Between 1964 and 1972, Malta’s main defense dispositions were those contained in a 1964 agreement with the United Kingdom guaranteeing mutual assistance. From 1972 to 1987 Malta followed a policy of nonalignment, and in 1987 a neutrality clause was included in its constitution. Malta maintains its own regular armed forces. Military service is voluntary for those of at least age 18.
Health and welfare
The government of Malta has always played a central role in the provision of health care by offering a comprehensive array of free health services and preventive care to Maltese citizens. State hospitals and clinics are complemented by private hospitals, which have proliferated since the 1990s. Since 1988 the island of Malta has been home to the United Nations International Institute on Ageing (INIA), which has made the island a centre of geriatric care and research.
In 1956 social insurance was introduced to cover employees, the self-employed, and unemployed persons. A comprehensive contributory insurance scheme was introduced in 1972, integrating a variety of earlier legislation. In 1979 this program was enhanced to introduce an earnings-related retirement pension. The 1994 Social Security Act consolidated earlier legislation and also incorporated noncontributory schemes. Until 1986 social security in Malta was administered through three separate laws: the Old Age Pensions Act of 1948, the National Assistance Act of 1956, and the National Insurance Act of 1956. In January 1987 these acts were consolidated into the Social Security Act.
From the early 1970s until the mid-1980s, the government radically altered the education system, which was previously structured on British models and strongly influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Compulsory education was extended to include all children ages 5 to 16. The streaming of students by age and intellectual ability and through examinations was at first discarded but later reintroduced. In 2005 Malta’s government reformed the education system again and created autonomous regional colleges consisting of primary and secondary schools and junior colleges.
At the tertiary level, a student-worker scheme was introduced in 1978, with students working for six months and studying for six months, thereby linking admission to higher educational institutions to the availability of employment. This system was largely revoked by the Education Act of 1988, and admission to institutions of higher learning is now based completely on competence.
The University of Malta at Msida and the Malta College of Arts, Science, and Technology (MCAST) are the country’s principal institutions of higher education. The former was founded as a Jesuit college in 1592, established as a state institution in 1769, and refounded in 1988. It offers courses in most disciplines and has a prestigious medical school. Its modern campus at Tal-Qroqq also houses the International Maritime Law Institute and the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies. MCAST, founded in 2000, mainly offers vocational and technical education and has institutes on Malta and Gozo.
Culture Life of Malta
The culture of Malta is a reflection of various cultures that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including neighboring Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.
Maltese 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 specialties are Italian/Sicilian or Moorish in origin.
While Maltese music today is largely western, traditional Maltese music includes what is known as għana. 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.
History of Malta
Malta was settled in Neolithic times; the Hal-Saflieni Hypogeum is the site of what is believed to be the largest group of prehistoric European rock-cut chamber tombs. The island, anciently called Melita, later belonged successively to the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans. St. Paul was shipwrecked there (A.D. 60). Arab rule began in A.D. 870; the Normans of Sicily occupied it c.1090. In 1530 the Hapsburg Charles V granted Malta to the Knights Hospitalers. Notwithstanding a determined siege by the Turks in 1565, the knights held it until 1798, when it was surrendered to Napoleon.
The British ousted the French in 1800 and made it a crown colony in 1814. For most of the 19th cent., Malta was ruled by a military governor. The opening of the Suez Canal (1869) increased its strategic value, Malta becoming one of the principal coaling stations for steamers bound for India and East Asia. During World War II, Malta was subjected to extremely heavy bombing by Italian and German planes, and in 1942 King George VI awarded its citizens the George Cross for bravery.
Almost from the start of the period of British rule the Maltese agitated for increased political freedom. Considerable self-government was granted in 1921, but this was revoked in 1936. A constitution granted in 1947 was revoked after civil disturbances in 1959. Malta achieved full independence in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. The Labor party, led by Dom Mintoff, was in power from 1971 to 1987. The government of the Nationalist prime minister Edward Fenech Adami was elected in 1987 and was returned to office in 1992 and 1998. Alfred Sant of the Labor party was prime minister from 1996 to 1998. In the 1990s, Malta tried to balance its foreign policy between neighboring Libya and the economically more important Western nations. It applied for full membership in the European Union (EU) in 1990 and embarked on an extensive economic and restructuring program, and Malta joined the EU in 2004.
Fenech Adami and the Nationalist party, strong supporters of EU membership, were returned to power in the Apr., 2003, parliamentary elections. Fenech Adami stepped down in Mar., 2003, and Lawrence Gonzi succeeded him as prime minister. Malta adopted the euro in Jan., 2008. The Nationalist party won a narrow victory in the 2008 parliamentary elections; Gonzi's government fell in Dec., 2012, after it lost its majority. Labor won a majority in the Mar., 2013, elections, and Joseph Muscat became prime minister. In recent years the country has received increasing numbers of Europe-bound illegal African immigrants, most of them rescued at sea by Malta's navy.
Malta Area: 315 sq km (122 sq mi) Population (2004 est.): 401,000 Capital: Valletta Chief of state: Presidents Guido de Marco and, from April 4, Eddie Fenech Adami Head of government: Prime ...>>>Read On<<<
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