Malta

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta’ Malta), is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea.
It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), with a population of just under 450,000 (despite an extensive emigration programme since the Second World War), making it one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated countries.
The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.

Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands.

King George VI of the United Kingdom awarded the George Cross to Malta in 1942 for the country’s bravery in the Second World War. The George Cross continues to appear on Malta’s national flag.
Under the Malta Independence Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1964, Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom as an independent sovereign Commonwealth realm, officially known from 1964 to 1974 as the State of Malta, with Elizabeth II as its head of state. The country became a republic in 1974, and although no longer a Commonwealth realm, remains a current member state of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone.

Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is claimed to be an apostolic see because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.

Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.


 

History

Prehistory

Pottery found by archaeologists at the Skorba Temples resembles that found in Italy, and suggests that the Maltese islands were first settled in 5200 BCE mainly by Stone Age hunters or farmers who had arrived from the Italian island of Sicily, possibly the Sicani. The extinction of the dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants has been linked to the earliest arrival of humans on Malta.
Prehistoric farming settlements dating to Early Neolithic period were discovered in open areas and also in caves, such as Għar Dalam.

The Sicani were the only tribe known to have inhabited the island at this time and are generally regarded as being closely related to the Iberians. The population on Malta grew cereals, raised livestock and, in common with other ancient Mediterranean cultures, worshiped a fertility figure represented in Maltese prehistoric artefacts exhibiting the proportions seen in similar statuettes, including the Venus of Willendorf.

Pottery from the Għar Dalam phase is similar to pottery found in Agrigento, Sicily. A culture of megalithis temple builders then either supplanted or arose from this early period. Around the time of 3500 BC, these people built some of the oldest existing free-standing structures in the world in the form of the megalithic Ġgantija temples on Gozo; other early temples include those at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra.

The temples have distinctive architecture, typically a complex trefoil design, and were used from 4000 to 2500 BCE. Animal bones and a knife found behind a removable altar stone suggest that temple rituals included animal sacrifice. Tentative information suggests that the sacrifices were made to the goddess of fertility, whose statue is now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta. The culture apparently disappeared from the Maltese Islands around 2500 BC. Archaeologists speculate that the temple builders fell victim to famine or disease, but this is not certain.

Another interesting archaeological feature of the Maltese islands often attributed to these ancient builders, are equidistant uniform grooves dubbed “cart tracks” or “cart ruts” which can be found in several locations throughout the islands with the most prominent being those found in Misraħ Għar il-Kbir, which is informally known as “Clapham Junction”. These may have been caused by wooden-wheeled carts eroding soft limestone.

After 2500 BC, the Maltese Islands were depopulated for several decades until the arrival of a new influx of Bronze Age immigrants, a culture that cremated its dead and introduced smaller megalithic structures called dolmens to Malta. In most cases there are small chambers here, with the cover made of a large slab placed on upright stones. They are claimed to belong to a population certainly different from that which built the previous megalithic temples. It is presumed the population arrived from Sicily because of the similarity of Maltese dolmens to some small constructions found in the largest island of the Mediterranean sea.

Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians & Romans

Phoenician traders, who used the islands as a stop on their trade routes from the eastern Mediterranean to Cornwall, joined the natives on the island. The Phoenicians inhabited the area now known as Mdina, and its surrounding town of Rabat, which they called Maleth. The Romans, who also much later inhabited Mdina, referred to it (and the island) as Melita.

After the fall of Phoenicia in 332 BC, the area came under the control of Carthage, a former Phoenician colony. During this time the people on Malta mainly cultivated olives and carob and produced textiles.

During the First Punic War, the island was conquered after harsh fighting by Marcus Atilius Regulus. After the failure of his expedition, the island fell back in the hands of Carthage, only to be conquered again in 218 BC, during the Second Punic War, by Roman Consul Tiberius Sempronius Longus. Since then, Malta became Foederata Civitas, a designation that meant it was exempt from paying tribute or the rule of Roman law, and fell within the jurisdiction of the province of Sicily.
Punic influence, however, remained vibrant on the islands with the famous Cippi of Melqart, pivotal in deciphering the Punic language, dedicated in the 2nd century BC.
Also the local Roman coinage, which ceased in the first century BC, indicates the slow pace of the island’s Romanization, since the very last locally minted coins still bear inscriptions in Ancient Greek on the obverse (like “MEΛΙΤΑΙΩ”, meaning “of the Maltese”) and Punic motives, showing the resistance of the Greek and Punic cultures.

In the 1st century BC, Roman Senator and orator Cicero commented on the importance of the Temple of Juno, and on the extravagant behaviour of the Roman governor of Sicily, Verres.
During the 1st century BC the island was mentioned by Pliny the Elder and Diodorus Siculus: the latter praised its harbours, the wealth of its inhabitants, its lavishly decorated houses and the quality of its textile products.
In 2nd century, Emperor Hadrian (r. 117–38) upgraded the status of Malta to municipium or free town: the island local affairs were administered by four quattuorviri iuri dicundo and a municipal senate, while a Roman procurator, living in Mdina, represented the proconsul of Sicily.
In 58 AD, Paul the Apostle was washed up on the islands together with Luke the Evangelist after their ship was wrecked on the islands. Paul the Apostle remained on the islands three months, preaching the Christian faith, which has since thrived on Malta.
Few archaeological relics survive in Malta today from the Roman period, the sole exception being the Roman Domus, just outside the walls of Mdina.

In 395, when the Roman Empire was divided for the last time at the death of Theodosius I, Malta, following Sicily, fell under the control of the Western Roman Empire. During the Migration Period as the Western Roman Empire declined, Malta came under attack and was conquered or occupied a number of times.
From 454 to 464 the islands was subdued by the Vandals, and after 464 by the Ostrogoths.
In 533 Belisarius, on his way to conquer the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa, reunited the islands under Imperial (Eastern) rule. Little is known about the Byzantine rule in Malta: the island depended on the theme of Sicily and had Greek Governors and a small Greek garrison.
While the bulk of population continued to be constituted by the old, Latinized dwellers, during this period its religious allegiance oscillated between the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Byzantine rule introduced Greek families to the Maltese collective. Malta remained under the Byzantine Empire until 870, when it fell to the Arabs.

Muslim period and the Middle Ages

Malta became involved in the Muslim–Byzantine Wars, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily that began in 827 after admiral Euphemius’ betrayal of his fellow Byzantines, requesting that the Aghlabids invade the island.
The Muslim chronicler and geographer al-Himyari recounts that in 870 AD, following a violent struggle against the occupying Byzantines, the Muslim invaders, first led by Halaf al-Hadim, and later by Sawada ibn Muhammad, looted and pillaged the island, destroying the most important buildings, and leaving it practically uninhabited until it was recolonised by the Muslims from Sicily in 1048–1049 AD.
It is uncertain whether this new settlement took place as a consequence of demographic expansion in Sicily, as a result of a higher standard of living in Sicily (in which case the recolonisation may have taken place a few decades earlier), or as a result of civil war which broke out among Muslim rulers of Sicily in 1038. The Muslims introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton and the Siculo-Arabic language was adopted on the island from Sicily: it would eventually evolve into the Maltese language.
The Christians on the island were allowed freedom of religion; they had to pay jizya, a tax for non-Muslims, though were exempt from the tax that Muslims had to pay (zakat).

Norman Conquest

The Normans captured Malta in 1091, as part of their conquest of Sicily. The Norman leader, Roger I of Sicily, was welcomed by the native Christians. The notion that Count Roger I reportedly tore off a portion of his checkered red-and-white banner and presented it to the Maltese – forming the basis of the modern flag of Malta in gratitude for having fought on his behalf – is founded in myth.

The Norman period was productive; Malta became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Sicily which also covered the island of Sicily and the southern half of the Italian Peninsula.
The Catholic Church was reinstated as the state religion with Malta under the See of Palermo, and some Norman architecture sprung up around Malta especially in its ancient capital Mdina. Tancred, King of Sicily, the last Norman monarch, made Malta a fief of the kingdom and installed a count of Malta. As the islands were much desired due to their strategic importance, it was during this time the men of Malta were militarised to fend off capture attempts; early counts were skilled Genoese privateers.

The kingdom passed on to the dynasty of Hohenstaufen from 1194 until 1266. During this period, when Frederick II of Hohenstaufen began to reorganise his Sicilian kingdom, Western culture and religion began to exert their influence more intensely. Malta formed part of the Holy Roman Empire for 72 years. Malta was declared a county and a marquisate, but its trade was totally ruined. For a long time it remained solely a fortified garrison.

A mass expulsion of Arabs occurred in 1224 and the entire Christian male population of Celano in Abruzzo was deported to Malta in the same year. In 1249 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that all remaining Muslims be expelled from Malta or impelled to convert.

For a brief period the kingdom passed to the Capetian House of Anjou, but high taxes made the dynasty unpopular in Malta, due in part to Charles of Anjou’s war against the Republic of Genoa, and the island of Gozo was sacked in 1275. A large revolt on Sicily known as the Sicilian Vespers followed these attacks, that saw the Peninsula separating into the Kingdom of Naples.

Crown of Aragon rule & the Knights of Malta

Malta was ruled by the House of Barcelona, an Aragonese dynasty from 1282 to 1409, with the Aragonese aiding the Maltese insurgents in the Sicilian Vespers in a naval battle in Grand Harbour in 1283.

Relatives of the kings of Aragon ruled the island until 1409, when it formally passed to the Crown of Aragon. Early on in the Aragonese ascendancy, the sons of the monarchy received the title, “Count of Malta”. During this time much of the local nobility was created. However, by 1397 the bearing of the title “Count of Malta” reverted to a feudal basis with two families fighting over the distinction, which caused some conflict. This led the Martin I of Sicily to abolish the title. Dispute over the title returned when the title was reinstated a few years later and the Maltese, led by the local nobility, rose up against Count Gonsalvo Monroy.
Although they opposed the Count, the Maltese voiced their loyalty to the Sicilian Crown, which so impressed Alfonso V of Aragon that he did not punish the people for their rebellion. Instead, he promised never to grant the title to a third party, and incorporated it back into the crown. The city of Mdina was given the title of Città Notabile as a result of this sequence of events.

On 23 March 1530, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, gave the islands to the Knights Hospitaller under the leadership of Frenchman Philippe Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Grand Master of the Order, in perpetual lease for which they had to pay an annual tribute of one single Maltese Falcon.
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.

In 1551, the population of the island of Gozo (around 5,000 people) were taken as slaves by Barbary pirates and brought to the Barbary Coast in present-day Libya.

The knights, led by Frenchman Jean Parisot de Valette, Grand Master of the Order, withstood the Great Siege of Malta by the Ottomans in 1565.
The knights, with the help of Spanish and Maltese forces, were victorious and repelled the attack. Speaking of the battle Voltaire said, “Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta.”
After the siege they decided to increase Malta’s fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named in honour of Valette, was built.
They also established watchtowers along the coasts – the Wignacourt, Lascaris and De Redin towers – named after the Grand Masters who ordered the work.
The Knights’ presence on the island saw the completion of many architectural and cultural projects, including the embellishment of Città Vittoriosa (modern Birgu), the construction of new cities including Città Rohan (modern Żebbuġ) and Città Hompesch (modern Żabbar) and the introduction of new academic and social resources. Approximately 11,000 people out of a population of 60,000 died of plague in 1675.

French Occupation

The Knights’ reign ended when Napoleon captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. Over the years preceding Napoleon’s capture of the islands, the power of the Knights had declined and the Order had become unpopular. This was around the time when the universal values of freedom and liberty were incarnated by the French Revolution.
People from both inside the Order and outside appealed to Napoleon Bonaparte to oust the Knights. Napoleon Bonaparte did not hesitate. His fleet arrived in 1798, en route to his expedition of Egypt. As a ruse towards the Knights, Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his ships, and then turned his guns against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. Grand Master Hompesch capitulated, and Napoleon entered Malta.

During 12–18 June 1798, Napoleon resided at the Palazzo Parisio in Valletta. He reformed national administration with the creation of a Government Commission, twelve municipalities, a public finance administration, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the abolition of slavery and the granting of freedom to all Turkish and Jewish slaves.
On the judicial level, a family code was framed and twelve judges were nominated. Public education was organised along principles laid down by Bonaparte himself, providing for primary and secondary education. He then sailed for Egypt leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.

The French forces left behind became unpopular with the Maltese, due particularly to the French forces’ hostility towards Catholicism and pillaging of local churches to fund Napoleon’s war efforts. French financial and religious policies so angered the Maltese that they rebelled, forcing the French to depart. Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of Sicily, sent ammunition and aid to the Maltese and Britain also sent her navy, which blockaded the islands.

General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois surrendered his French forces in 1800. Maltese leaders presented the island to Sir Alexander Ball, asking that the island become a British Dominion. The Maltese people created a Declaration of Rights in which they agreed to come “under the protection and sovereignty of the King of the free people, His Majesty the King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”.
The Declaration also stated that “his Majesty has no right to cede these Islands to any power…if he chooses to withdraw his protection, and abandon his sovereignty, the right of electing another sovereign, or of the governing of these Islands, belongs to us, the inhabitants and aborigines alone, and without control.”

British Empire & the Second World War

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. After the Suez Canal opened in 1869, Malta’s position halfway between the Strait of Gibraltar and Egypt proved to be its main asset, and it was considered an important stop on the way to India, a central trade route for the British. Because of its position, several culinary and botanical products were introduced in Malta; some examples (derived from the National Book of Trade Customs found in the National Library) include wheat (for bread making) and bacon.

Between 1915 and 1918, during the First World War, Malta became known as the Nurse of the Mediterranean due to the large number of wounded soldiers who were accommodated in Malta.

In 1919 British troops fired on a rally protesting against new taxes, killing four Maltese men. The event, known as Sette Giugno (Italian for 7 June), is commemorated every year and is one of five National Days.

Before the Second World War, Valletta was the location of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet’s headquarters. However, despite Winston Churchill’s objections, the command was moved to Alexandria, Egypt, in April 1937 fearing it was too susceptible to air attacks from Europe.

During the Second World War, Malta played a very important role for the Allies; being a British colony, situated close to Sicily and the Axis shipping lanes, Malta was bombarded by the Italian and German air forces. Malta was used by the British to launch attacks on the Italian navy and had a submarine base.
It was also used as a listening post, reading German radio messages including Enigma traffic. The bravery of the Maltese people during the second Siege of Malta moved 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 have suffered if Malta surrendered, as British forces in Singapore had done.
A depiction 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 became the second – and, to date, the only other – recipient of a collective George Cross.

Independence & Republic

Malta achieved its independence on 21 September 1964 (Independence Day) after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, led by Maltese Prime Minister George Borġ Olivier. Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta and thus Head of State, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf.
In 1971, the Malta Labour Party led by Dom Mintoff won the General Elections, resulting in Malta declaring itself a republic on 13 December 1974 (Republic Day) within the Commonwealth, with the President as head of state. A defence agreement signed soon after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972) expired on 31 March 1979.

Malta adopted a policy of neutrality in 1980. In 1989, Malta was the venue of a summit between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, their first face-to-face encounter, which signalled the end of the Cold War.

On 16 July 1990, Malta, through its foreign minister, Guido de Marco, applied to join the European Union. After tough negotiations, a referendum was held on 8 March 2003, which resulted in a favourable vote.
General Elections held on 12 April 2003, gave a clear mandate to the Prime Minister, Eddie Fenech Adami, to sign the Treaty of accession to the European Union on 16 April 2003 in Athens, Greece.

Malta joined the European Union on 1 May 2004. Following the European Council of 21–22 June 2007, Malta joined the eurozone on 1 January 2008.


 

Politics

Malta is a republic whose parliamentary system and public administration are closely modelled on the Westminster system. Malta had the second-highest voter turnout in the world (and the highest for nations without mandatory voting), based on election turnout in national lower house elections from 1960 to 1995.
The unicameral House of Representatives, (Maltese: 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 House of Representatives is made up of 69 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.

The President of Malta is appointed for a five-year term by a resolution of the House of Representatives carried by a simple majority. The role of the president as head of state is largely ceremonial. The main political parties are the Nationalist Party, which is a Christian democratic party, and the Labour Party, which is a social democratic party.
The Labour Party is currently at the helm of the government, the Prime Minister being Joseph Muscat. The Nationalist Party, with Simon Busuttil as its leader, is in opposition. There are a number of smaller political parties in Malta that presently have no parliamentary representation.

Until the Second World War, Maltese politics was dominated by the language question fought out by Italophile and Anglophile parties. Post-War politics dealt with constitutional questions on the relations with Britain (first with integration then independence) and, eventually, relations with the European Union.

Administrative Divisions

Malta has had a system of local government since 1993, based on the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The country is divided into five regions, with each region having its own Regional Committee, serving as the intermediate level between local government and national government.
The regions are divided into local councils, of which there are currently 68 (54 in Malta and 14 in Gozo). Sixteen “hamlets”, which form part of larger councils, have their own Administrative Committee. The six districts (five on the main island) serve primarily statistical purposes.

Each council is made up of a number of councillors (from 5 to 13, depending on and relative to the population they represent). A mayor and a deputy mayor are elected by and from the councillors. The executive secretary, who is appointed by the council, is the executive, administrative and financial head of the council.
Councillors are elected every four years through the single transferable vote. People who are eligible to vote in the election of the Maltese House of Representatives as well as resident citizens of the EU are eligible to vote. Due to system reforms, no elections were held before 2012. Since then, elections have been held every two years for an alternating half of the councils.

Local councils are responsible for the general upkeep and embellishment of the locality (including repairs to non-arterial roads), allocation of local wardens and refuse collection; they also carry out general administrative duties for the central government such as collection of government rents and funds and answer government-related public inquiries.

Foreign Relations

In addition, a number of individual cities, towns and villages in Malta have sister cities abroad: see List of twin towns and sister cities in Malta
Aside from this, Malta, as a member of the European Union, has bilateral relations with most of Europe. The country’s bilateral relations in other continents are very limited, with some having non-existent bilateral relations. Japan, Philippines and Australia have expressed cooperation with Malta for future bilateral relations.

Military

The 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 the government in an efficient and cost-effective manner. This is achieved by emphasising the maintenance of Malta’s territorial waters and airspace integrity.

The AFM also engages in combating terrorism, fighting against illicit drug trafficking, conducting anti-illegal immigrant operations and patrols 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.

As 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 disposal.
On another level, the AFM establishes and/or consolidates bilateral co-operation with other countries to reach higher operational effectiveness related to AFM roles.


 

Geography

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean (in its eastern basin), some 80 km (50 mi) south of the Italian island of Sicily across the Malta Channel. Only the three largest islands – Malta (Malta), Gozo (Għawdex) and Comino (Kemmuna) – are inhabited. The smaller islands (see below) are uninhabited. The islands of the archipelago lie on the Malta plateau, a shallow shelf formed from the high points of a land bridge between Sicily and North Africa that became isolated as sea levels rose after the last Ice Age.[116] The archipelago is therefore situated in the zone between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates.

Numerous bays along the indented coastline of the islands provide good harbours. The landscape consists of low hills with terraced fields. The highest point in Malta is Ta’ Dmejrek, at 253 m (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 have fresh water running all year round at Baħrija near Ras ir-Raħeb, at l-Imtaħleb and San Martin, and at Lunzjata Valley in Gozo.

Phytogeographically, Malta belongs to the Liguro-Tyrrhenian province of the Mediterranean Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Malta belongs to the ecoregion of “Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands and Scrub”.

The minor islands that form part of the archipelago are uninhabited and include:

Barbaġanni Rock (Gozo)
Cominotto, (Kemmunett)
Dellimara Island (Marsaxlokk)
Filfla (Żurrieq)/(Siġġiewi)
Fessej Rock
Fungus Rock, (Il-Ġebla tal-Ġeneral) (Gozo)
Għallis Rock (Naxxar)
Ħalfa Rock (Gozo)
Large Blue Lagoon Rocks (Comino)
Islands of St. Paul/Selmunett Island (Mellieħa)
Manoel Island, which connects to the town of Gżira, on the mainland, via a bridge
Mistra Rocks (San Pawl il-Baħar)
Taċ-Ċawl Rock (Gozo)
Qawra Point/Ta’ Fraben Island (San Pawl il-Baħar)
Small Blue Lagoon Rocks (Comino)
Sala Rock (Żabbar)
Xrobb l-Għaġin Rock (Marsaxlokk)
Ta’ taħt il-Mazz Rock

Climate

Malta has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa), with very mild winters and warm to hot summers. Rain occurs mainly in autumn and winter, with summer being generally dry. According to International Living, Malta is the country with the best climate in the world.

The average yearly temperature is around 23 °C (73 °F) during the day and 16 °C (61 °F) at night. In the coldest month – January – the typically maximum temperature ranges from 12 to 20 °C (54 to 68 °F) during the day and minimum 7 to 12 °C (45 to 54 °F) at night. In the warmest month – August – the typically maximum temperature ranges from 28 to 34 °C (82 to 93 °F) during the day and minimum 20 to 24 °C (68 to 75 °F) at night. Generally – summers/holiday season lasts to 8 months, starting from around mid-April with temperatures 19–23 °C (66–73 °F) during the day and 13–14 °C (55–57 °F) at night, ending in November with temperatures 17–23 °C (63–73 °F) during the day and 11–20 °C (52–68 °F) at night, although also in the remaining 4 months temperatures sometimes reach 20 °C (68 °F).
Amongst all capitals in the continent of Europe, Valletta – the capital of Malta has the warmest winters, with average temperatures of around 16 °C (61 °F) during the day and 10 °C (50 °F) at night in the period January–February. In March and December average temperatures is around 17 °C (63 °F) during the day and 11 °C (52 °F) at night. Large fluctuations in temperature are rare.

Average annual temperature of the sea is 20 °C (68 °F), from 15–16 °C (59–61 °F) in February to 26 °C (79 °F) in August. In the 6 months – from June to November – the average sea temperature exceeds 20 °C (68 °F).

Sunshine duration hours total around 3,000 per year (the highest results in Europe), from an average 5.2 hours of sunshine duration per day in December to an average above 12 hours in July.
This is about double that of cities in the northern half of Europe, for comparison: London – 1,461; however, in winter it has up to four times more sunshine; for comparison: in December, London has 37 hours of sunshine whereas Malta has above 160.

Urbanisation

According to Eurostat, Malta is composed of two Larger Urban Zones nominally referred to as “Valletta” (the main island of Malta) and “Gozo”. According to Demographia, state is identified as urban area. According to European Spatial Planning Observation Network, Malta is identified as Functional Urban Area (FUA).
According to United Nations, about 95% area of Malta is urban area and the number grows every year. Also, according to the results of ESPON and EU Commission studies, “the whole territory of Malta constitutes a single urban region”.

Occasionally in the media and official publications Malta is referred to as a city-state. Also, the Maltese coat-of-arms bears a mural crown described as “representing the fortifications of Malta and denoting a City State”. Malta, with area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi) and population of 0.4 million, is one of the most densely populated countries worldwide.


 

Economy

Malta is classified as an advanced economy together with 32 other countries according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Until 1800 Malta depended on cotton, tobacco and its shipyards for exports. Once under British control, they came to depend on Malta Dockyard for support of the Royal Navy, especially during the Crimean war of 1854.
The military base benefited craftsmen and all those who served the military.

In 1869, the opening of the Suez Canal gave Malta’s economy a great boost, as there was a massive increase in the shipping which entered the port. Ships stopping at Malta’s docks for refuelling helped the Entrepôt trade, which brought additional benefits to the island.

However, towards the end of the 19th century the economy began declining, and by the 1940s Malta’s economy was in serious crisis. One factor was the longer range of newer merchant ships that required less frequent refuelling stops.

Currently, 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 because of the drought in the summer and has no domestic energy sources, aside from the potential for solar energy from its plentiful sunlight. The economy is dependent on foreign trade (serving as a freight trans-shipment point), manufacturing (especially electronics and textiles) and tourism.

Film production is a growing contributor to the Maltese economy. The first film was shot in Malta in 1925 (Sons of the Sea); over 100 feature films have been entirely or partially filmed in the country since then. Malta has served as a “double” for a wide variety of locations and historic periods including Ancient Greece, Ancient and Modern Rome, Iraq, the Middle East and many more.
The Maltese government introduced financial incentives for filmmakers in 2005.
The current financial incentives to foreign productions currently stand at 25% with an additional 2% if Malta stands in as Malta; meaning a production can get up to 27% back on their eligible spending incurred in Malta. The government is investing heavily in education, including college.

In preparation for Malta’s membership in the European Union, which it joined on 1 May 2004, it privatised some state-controlled firms and liberalised markets. For example, the government announced on 8 January 2007 that it was selling its 40% stake in MaltaPost, to complete a privatisation process which has been ongoing for the past five years. In 2010, Malta managed to privatise telecommunications, postal services, shipyards and shipbuilding.

Malta has taken important and substantial steps to establish itself as a global player in the cross-border fund administration business. Competing against countries like Ireland and Luxembourg, Malta has a unique combination of a multi-lingual workforce and a strong legal system. Malta has a mixed reputation for transparency and a DAW Index score of 6, although both are expected to improve as Malta increasingly adopts more comprehensive legislative framework for financial services.
Malta has a regulator, the MFSA, with a strong business development mindset, and the country has been successful in attracting gaming businesses, aircraft and ship registration, credit-card issuing banking licences and also fund administration.
Service providers to these industries, including fiduciary and trustee business, are a core part of the growth strategy of the island. Malta has made strong headway in implementing EU Financial Services Directives including UCITs IV and soon AIFMD. As a base for alternative asset managers who must comply with new directives, Malta has attracted a number of key players including IDS, Iconic Funds, Apex Fund Services and TMF/Customs House.

Malta and Tunisia are currently discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for petroleum exploration. These discussions are also undergoing between Malta and Libya for similar arrangements.

Malta does not have a property tax. Its property market, especially around the harbour area, has been in constant boom, with the prices of apartments in some towns like Sliema and Gzira skyrocketing. According to Eurostat data, Maltese GDP per capita stood at 86 per cent of the EU average in 2010 with €21,000.

Banking & Finance

The two largest commercial banks are Bank of Valletta and HSBC Bank Malta, both of which can trace their origins back to the 19th century.

The Central Bank of Malta (Bank Ċentrali ta’ Malta) has two key areas of responsibility: the formulation and implementation of monetary policy and the promotion of a sound and efficient financial system. It was established by the Central Bank of Malta Act on 17 April 1968. The Maltese government entered ERM II on 4 May 2005, and adopted the euro as the country’s currency on 1 January 2008.

FinanceMalta is the quasi-governmental organisation tasked with marketing and educating business leaders in coming to Malta and runs seminars and events around the world highlighting the emerging strength of Malta as a jurisdiction for banking and finance and insurance.


 

Demographice

Malta conducts a census of population and housing every ten years. The census held in November 2005 counted an estimated 96% of the population. A preliminary report was issued in April 2006 and the results were weighted to estimate for 100% of the population.

Native Maltese people make up the majority of the island. However, there are minorities, the largest of which are Britons, many of whom are retirees. The population of Malta as of July 2011 was estimated at 408,000. As of 2005, 17% were aged 14 and under, 68% were within the 15–64 age bracket whilst the remaining 13% were 65 years and over.
Malta’s population density of 1,282 per square km (3,322/sq mi) is by far the highest in the EU and one of the highest in the world. By comparison, the average population density for the “World (land only, excluding Antarctica)” was 54 pop./km² as of July 2014.

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 censuses since 1842 have shown a slight excess of females over males. The 1901 and 1911 censuses came closest to recording a balance. The highest female-to-male ratio was reached in 1957 (1088:1000) but since then the ratio has dropped continuously. The 2005 census showed a 1013:1000 female-to-male ratio.
Population 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).

The population’s age composition is similar to the age structure prevalent in the EU. Since 1967 there was observed a trend indicating an ageing 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; 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%. Malta’s old-age-dependency-ratio is expected to continue rising steadily in the coming years.

Maltese legislation recognises both civil and canonical (ecclesiastical) marriages. Annulments by the ecclesiastical and civil courts are unrelated and are not necessarily mutually endorsed.
Malta voted in favour of divorce legislation in a referendum held on 28 May 2011. Abortion in Malta is illegal. A person must 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 young.
In 2005 there were 51 brides aged between 16 and 19, compared to 8 grooms.

At the end of 2007 the population of the Maltese Islands stood at 410,290 and is expected to reach 424,028 by 2025. At the moment, females slightly outnumber males, making up 50.3 per cent of the population. The largest proportion of persons – 7.5 per cent – were aged 25–29, while there were 7.3% falling into each of the 45–49 and 55–59 age brackets.

The total fertility rate (TFR) as of 2013 was estimated at 1.53 children born/woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2,1. In 2012, 25.8% of births were to unmarried women.
The life expectancy in 2013 was estimated at 79.98 years (77.69 years male, 82.41 years female).

Languages

The Maltese language (Maltese: Malti) is the constitutional national language of Malta, having become official, however, only in 1934. Previously, Italian was the official and cultural language of Malta, in its Sicilian variant from the 12th century, and in its Tuscan variant from the 16th century.
Alongside Maltese, English (imposed by the British after 1800) is also an official language of the country and hence the laws of the land are enacted both in Maltese and English.
However, the Constitution states that if there is any conflict between the Maltese and the English texts of any law, the Maltese text shall prevail.
The Constitution (clause 5 -2) also provides for the introduction of another official language; this was originally intended as a loophole for the possible reintroduction of Italian as the traditional partner of Maltese at an opportune time.

Maltese is a Semitic language descended from the now defunct Sicilian-Arabic (Siculo-Arabic) dialect (from southern Italy). The Maltese alphabet consists of 30 letters based on the Latin alphabet, including the diacritically altered letters ż, ċ and ġ, as well as the letters għ, ħ, and ie.

Maltese has a Semitic base with substantial borrowing from Sicilian, Italian, a little French, and more recently and increasingly, English. The hybrid character of Maltese was established by a long period of Maltese-Sicilian urban bilingualism gradually transforming rural speech and which ended in the early 19th century with Maltese emerging as the vernacular of the entire native population. The language includes different dialects that can vary greatly from one town to another or from one island to another.

The Eurobarometer states that 100% of the population speak Maltese. Also, 88% of the population speak English, 66% speak Italian, and 17% speak French. This widespread knowledge of second languages makes Malta one of the most multilingual countries in the European Union. A study collecting public opinion on what language was “preferred” discovered that 86% of the population express a preference for Maltese, 12% for English, and 2% for Italian. Still, Italian television channels from Italy-based broadcasters, such as Mediaset and RAI, reach Malta and remain popular.


 

Religion

The Constitution of Malta declares Catholicism as the state religion although entrenched provisions for the freedom of religion are made. Freedom House and the CIA World Factbook report that 98% of the population is Catholic.

There are more than 360 churches in Malta, Gozo and Comino, or one church for every 1,000 residents. The parish church (Maltese: “il-parroċċa”, or “il-knisja parrokkjali”) is the architectural and geographic focal point of every Maltese town and village, and its main source of civic pride. This civic pride manifests itself in spectacular fashion during the local village festas, which mark the day of the patron saint of each parish with marching bands, religious processions, special Masses, fireworks (especially petards) and other festivities.

Malta is an Apostolic See; the Acts of the Apostles tells of how St. Paul, on his way from Jerusalem to Rome to face trial, was shipwrecked on the island of “Melite”, which many Bible scholars identify with Malta, an episode dated around AD 60.
As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul spent three months on the island on his way to Rome, curing the sick including the father of Publius, the “chief man of the island”. Various traditions are associated with this account. The shipwreck is said to have occurred in the place today known as St Paul’s Bay.
The Maltese saint, Saint Publius is said to have been made Malta’s first bishop and a grotto in Rabat, now known as “St Paul’s Grotto” (and in the vicinity of which evidence of Christian burials and rituals from the 3rd century AD has been found), is among the earliest known places of Christian worship on the island.

Further evidence of Christian practices and beliefs during the period of Roman persecution appears in catacombs that lie beneath various sites around Malta, including St Paul’s Catacombs and St Agatha’s Catacombs in Rabat, just outside the walls of Mdina.
The latter, in particular, were beautifully frescoed between 1200 and 1480, although marauding Turks defaced many of them in the 1550s. There are also a number of cave churches, including the grotto at Mellieħa, which is a Shrine of the Nativity of Our Lady where, according to legend, St. Luke painted a picture of the Madonna. It has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times.

The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon record that in 451 AD a certain Acacius was Bishop of Malta (Melitenus Episcopus). It is also known that in 501 AD, a certain Constantinus, Episcopus Melitenensis, was present at the Fifth Ecumenical Council. In 588 AD, Pope Gregory I deposed Tucillus, Miletinae civitatis episcopus and the clergy and people of Malta elected his successor Trajan in 599 AD. The last recorded Bishop of Malta before the invasion of the islands was a Greek named Manas, who was subsequently incarcerated at Palermo.

Maltese historian Giovanni Francesco Abela states that following their conversion to Christianity at the hand of St. Paul, the Maltese retained their Christian religion, despite the Fatimid invasion. Abela’s writings describe Malta as a divinely ordained “bulwark of Christian, European civilization against the spread of Mediterranean Islam”. The native Christian community that welcomed Roger I of Sicily was further bolstered by immigration to Malta from Italy, in the 12th and 13th centuries.

For centuries, the Church in Malta was subordinate to the Diocese of Palermo, except when it was under Charles of Anjou, who appointed bishops for Malta, as did – on rare occasions – the Spanish and later, the Knights. Since 1808 all bishops of Malta have been Maltese.
As a result of the Norman and Spanish periods, and the rule of the Knights, Malta became the devout Catholic nation that it is today. It is worth noting that the Office of the Inquisitor of Malta had a very long tenure on the island following its establishment in 1530: the last Inquisitor departed from the Islands in 1798, after the Knights capitulated to the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte.
During the period of the Republic of Venice, several Maltese families emigrated to Corfu. Their descendants account for about two-thirds of the community of some 4,000 Catholics that now live on that island.

The patron saints of Malta are Saint Paul, Saint Publius and Saint Agatha. Although not a patron saint, St George Preca (San Ġorġ Preca) is greatly revered as the second canonised Maltese saint after St. Publius Malta‘s first acknowledged saint (canonised in the year 1634).
Pope Benedict XVI canonised him on 3 June 2007. Also, a number of Maltese individuals are recognised as Blessed, including Maria Adeodata Pisani and Nazju Falzon, with Pope John Paul II having beatified them in 2001.

Various Roman Catholic religious orders are present in Malta, including the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and Little Sisters of the Poor.

Most congregants of the local Protestant churches are not Maltese; their congregations draw on the many British retirees living in the country and vacationers from many other nations. There are approximately 600 Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Bible Baptist Church, and the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches each have about 60 affiliates.
There are also some churches of other denominations, including St. Andrew’s Scots Church in Valletta (a joint Presbyterian and Methodist congregation) and St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, and a Seventh-day Adventist church in Birkirkara. A New Apostolic Church congregation was founded in 1983 in Gwardamangia.

The Jewish population of Malta reached its peak in the Middle Ages under Norman rule. In 1479, Malta and Sicily came under Aragonese rule and the Alhambra Decree of 1492 forced all Jews to leave the country, permitting them to take with them only a few of their belongings. Several dozen Maltese Jews may have converted to Christianity at the time to remain in the country. Today, there is one Jewish congregation.

Zen Buddhism and the Bahá’í Faith claim some 40 members.

There is one Muslim mosque, the Mariam Al-Batool Mosque. A Muslim primary school recently opened. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims in Malta, approximately 2,250 are foreigners, approximately 600 are naturalised citizens, and approximately 150 are native-born Maltese.

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