Malta, formally known as the Republic of Malta, is a Mediterranean island nation in Southern Europe consisting of an archipelago. It is located 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Italy, 284 kilometers (176 kilometers) east of Tunisia, and 333 kilometers (207 kilometers) north of Libya. With a land area of little more than 316 km2 (122 sq mi) and a population of slightly less than 450,000, the nation is one of the world’s smallest and most densely inhabited. Valletta, Malta’s capital, is the smallest national capital in the European Union, at 0.8 km2. Maltese and English are the official languages of Malta.
Malta’s strategic position has historically made it an important naval base, and the islands have been controlled by a series of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British.
Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI of the United Kingdom in 1942 for its valor during World War II. Malta’s national flag continues to bear the George Cross. Malta achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 as an independent sovereign Commonwealth country, formally known as the State of Malta from 1964 to 1974, with Elizabeth II as its head of state. The nation became a republic in 1974 and, although it is no longer a Commonwealth kingdom, it is nevertheless a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta joined the United Nations in 1964 and the European Union in 2004; it joined the Eurozone in 2008.
Malta has a lengthy Christian history, and its Archdiocese of Malta claims to be an apostolic see because, according to tradition going back to the 12th century, the Acts of the Apostles is understood by the faithful as describing St Paul being shipwrecked on Malta. Malta’s official religion is Catholicism.
Malta is a popular tourist destination due to its pleasant climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, which include three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the al Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are among the world’s oldest free-standing structures.
With 1.6 million visitors each year, Malta is a renowned tourism destination. There are three times as many visitors as locals. The island’s tourism infrastructure has improved significantly over the years, and there are now a number of high-quality hotels, but overdevelopment and the loss of traditional homes is a major issue. A growing number of Maltese are taking vacations overseas.
Malta has promoted itself as a medical tourism destination in recent years, and a number of health tourism companies are growing the sector. No Maltese hospital, on the other hand, has received independent international healthcare certification. Malta is a popular destination for British medical tourists, prompting Maltese hospitals to seek certification from the United Kingdom, such as the Trent Accreditation Scheme. If hospitals in Malta want to compete with the Far East and Latin America for medical tourists from the United States, they need dual accreditation with the American-oriented Joint Commission.
Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean (in its eastern basin), located 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Sicily, Italy, and separated by the Malta Channel. Only the three biggest islands are inhabited: Malta (Malta), Gozo (Gawdex), and Comino (Kemmuna). The smaller (see below) islands are deserted. The archipelago’s islands are located on the Malta plateau, a narrow shelf created by the high points of a land bridge that connected Sicily and North Africa but became separated when sea levels rose after the last Ice Age. As a result, the archipelago is located between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates.
Numerous bays dot the islands’ indented shoreline, providing excellent harbors. Low hills with terraced farms make up the scenery. Ta’ Dmejrek, near Dingli, is Malta’s highest peak at 253 meters (830 feet). There are no permanent rivers or lakes in Malta, despite the presence of a few small rivers during periods of heavy rainfall. Some watercourses, such as Barija near Ras ir-Raeb, l-Imtaleb and San Martin, and the Lunzjata Valley in Gozo, have fresh water flowing all year.
Malta is part of the Mediterranean Region’s Liguro-Tyrrhenian province, which is part of the Boreal Kingdom. Malta is located in the “Mediterranean Forests, Woodlands, and Scrub” ecoregion, according to the WWF.
The archipelago’s smaller islands are deserted and include the following:
- 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
Malta has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climatic classification Csa), with warm to hot summers and moderate winters. Autumn and winter are the rainiest seasons, with summer being mostly dry. Malta is the country with the finest climate in the world, according to International Living.
The average annual temperature is approximately 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day and 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. The coldest month is January, with daytime temperatures ranging from 12 to 20 °C (54 to 68 °F) and nighttime temperatures ranging from 7 to 12 °C (45 to 54 °F). August is the hottest month, with maximum temperatures ranging from 28 to 34 °C (82 to 93 °F) during the day and low temperatures of 20 to 24 °C (68 to 75 °F) at night. Summers/holiday season lasts approximately 8 months, beginning around mid-April with temperatures of 19–23 °C (66–73 °F) during the day and 13–14 °C (55–57 °F) at night, and ending in November with temperatures of 17–23 °C (63–73 °F) during the day and 11–20 °C (52–68 °F) at night, although temperatures can reach 20 °C (68 °F) during Valletta, the capital of Malta, enjoys the warmest winters in Europe, with average temperatures of about 16 °C (61 °F) during the day and 10 °C (50 °F) at night in the months of January and February. The average temperature in March and December is about 17 °C (63 °F) during the day and 11 °C (52 °F) at night. Temperature swings of this magnitude are uncommon.
The sea’s average annual temperature is 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), ranging from 15–16 degrees Celsius (59–61 degrees Fahrenheit) in February to 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) in August. From June through November, the average sea temperature surpasses 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).
Sunshine length hours average approximately 3,000 per year (the highest in Europe), ranging from an average of 5.2 hours per day in December to over 12 hours in July. For contrast, cities in the northern part of Europe have approximately twice the population: London – 1,461; nevertheless, it gets up to four times more sunlight in the winter; for example, London has 37 hours of sunshine in December, while Malta has over 160.
Every 10 years, Malta conducts a population and housing census. In November 2005, an estimated 96 percent of the population was tallied in a census. In April 2006, a preliminary report was released, with the findings weighted to estimate for 100% of the population.
The Maltese people make up the vast bulk of the island’s population. Minorities do exist, the most prominent of which being Britons, many of whom are retirees. Malta’s population was projected to be 408,000 in July 2011. In 2005, 17 percent of the population was 14 years old or younger, 68 percent was 15–64 years old, and the remaining 13 percent was 65 years old or over. Malta has the greatest population density in the EU, with 1,282 people per square kilometer (3,322/square mile), and one of the highest in the world. In July 2014, the world’s average population density (land only, excluding Antarctica) was 54 people per square kilometer.
The only census year with a population drop was 1967, with a total loss of 1.7 percent due to the emigration of a large number of Maltese people. In 2004, the Maltese population was projected to account for 97.0 percent of the overall resident population.
Since 1842, every census has shown a small gender imbalance. The censuses of 1901 and 1911 came closest to recording a balance. The greatest female-to-male ratio was achieved in 1957 (1088:1000), but the ratio has steadily declined since then. According to the 2005 census, the female-to-male ratio was 1013:1000. From +9.5 percent between the 1985 and 1995 censuses to +6.9 percent between the 1995 and 2005 censuses (a annual average of +0.7 percent), population growth has decreased. The birth rate was 3860 (down 21.8 percent from the 1995 census), while the mortality rate was 3025. As a result, there was an 835-person natural population gain (compared to +888 in 2004), with over a hundred immigrant migrants.
The age structure of the population is comparable to that of the European Union. Since 1967, a trend suggesting an aging population has been seen, and it is anticipated to continue in the near future. Malta’s old-age-dependency-ratio increased from 17.2% in 1995 to 19.8% in 2005, still lower than the EU’s 24.9 percent average; 31.5 percent of the Maltese population is under 25 years old (compared to 29.1% in the EU); however, the 50–64 age group accounts for 20.3 percent of the population, significantly higher than the EU’s 17.9%. In the next years, Malta’s old-age-dependency-ratio is projected to continue to rise gradually.
Both civil and canonical (ecclesiastical) marriages are recognized under Maltese law. The annulments granted by the ecclesiastical and civil courts are unconnected and do not always agree. In a referendum conducted on May 28, 2011, Maltese citizens voted in favor of divorce law. Abortion is prohibited in Malta. To marry, a person must be 16 years old. Brides under the age of 25 dropped from 1471 in 1997 to 766 in 2005, while grooms under the age of 25 decreased from 823 to 311. Females are more likely than men to marry young on a consistent basis. In 2005, 51 brides between the ages of 16 and 19 were married, compared to just 8 grooms.
The population of the Maltese Islands was 410,290 at the end of 2007, and is projected to rise to 424,028 by 2025. Females slightly outnumber males at the present, accounting for 50.3 percent of the population. The 25–29 age group had the highest percentage of people (7.5%), followed by the 45–49 and 55–59 age groups, each with 7.3 percent.
As of 2013, the total fertility rate (TFR) was projected to be 1.53 children per woman, which is lower below the replacement rate of 2,1. Unmarried women accounted for 25.8% of all births in 2012. In 2013, the average life expectancy was 79.98 years (77.69 years male, 82.41 years female).
The Maltese Constitution proclaims Catholicism to be the official religion, notwithstanding established protections for religious freedom.
Roman Catholicism is the most widely practiced religion in Malta. The Maltese Constitution defines Catholicism as the official religion, which is also represented in many aspects of Maltese culture.
In Malta, Gozo, and Comino, there are around 360 churches, or one for every 1,000 inhabitants. The parish church (Maltese: “il-parroa” or “il-knisja parrokkjali”) is the architectural and geographic center of every Maltese town and hamlet, as well as the source of civic pride. This municipal pride is on display at the local village festas, which celebrate the patron saint of each parish with marching bands, religious processions, special Masses, pyrotechnics (particularly petards), and other festivities.
Malta is an Apostolic See; the Acts of the Apostles speaks of St. Paul being shipwrecked on the island of “Melite,” which many Bible scholars identify as Malta, on his journey from Jerusalem to Rome to stand trial, an event that occurred about AD 60. St. Paul spent three months on the island on his journey to Rome, as recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, healing the ill, including the father of Publius, the “principal man of the island.” This story is linked to a number of different traditions. The shipwreck is believed to have happened at what is now known as St Paul’s Bay. Saint Publius, a Maltese saint, 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 discovered), is one of the island’s earliest known places of Christian worship.
Catacombs under different locations throughout Malta, notably St Paul’s Catacombs and St Agatha’s Catacombs near Rabat, just beyond the walls of Mdina, provide further evidence of Christian activities and beliefs during the time of Roman persecution. The latter were especially well-frescoed between 1200 and 1480, but invading Turks damaged several of them in the 1550s. There are also a number of cave churches, such as the grotto at Melliea, which is a Shrine of the Nativity of Our Lady and tradition has it that St. Luke painted a portrait of the Madonna there. It has been a pilgrimage site since the Middle Ages.
According to the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, a certain Acacius was Bishop of Malta in 451 AD (Melitenus Episcopus). It is also known that a certain Constantinus, Episcopus Melitenensis, attended the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 501 AD. Pope Gregory I dismissed Tucillus, Miletinae civitatis episcopus, in 588 AD, and the clergy and people of Malta chose Trajan as his successor in 599 AD. Before the conquest of the islands, the last documented Bishop of Malta was a Greek called Manas, who was afterwards imprisoned in Palermo.
According to Maltese historian Giovanni Francesco Abela, the Maltese maintained their Christian faith despite the Fatimid invasion after their conversion to Christianity at the hands of St. Paul. Malta is described in Abela’s works as a divinely appointed “bulwark of Christian, European culture against the expansion of Mediterranean Islam.” In the 12th and 13th centuries, immigration to Malta from Italy strengthened the local Christian population that welcomed Roger I of Sicily.
For centuries, the Church in Malta was subject to the Diocese of Palermo, except when it was under Charles of Anjou, who chose bishops for Malta, as did the Spanish and, subsequently, the Knights on rare occasions. Since 1808, all Maltese bishops have served. Malta became the devoted Catholic country that it is today as a consequence of the Norman and Spanish eras, as well as the authority of the Knights. It is worth mentioning that the Office of the Inquisitor of Malta had a lengthy stay on the island after its foundation in 1530: the last Inquisitor left the Islands in 1798, when the Knights surrendered to Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops. Several Maltese families moved to Corfu under the Republic of Venice. Their descendants make up about two-thirds of the 4,000 Catholics who currently reside on the island.
Malta’s patron saints are Saint Paul, Saint Publius, and Saint Agatha. Although not a patron saint, St George Preca (San or Preca) is highly regarded as the second Maltese saint to be canonised after St. Publius Malta, Malta’s first recognized saint (canonised in the year 1634). On June 3, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI canonized him. In addition, a number of Maltese people have been declared Blessed, notably Maria Adeodata Pisani and Nazju Falzon, who were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001.
Malta is home to a number of Roman Catholic religious orders, including the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, and Little Sisters of the Poor.
The majority of the congregations of the local Protestant churches are not Maltese; their congregations are drawn from the numerous British pensioners residing in the island as well as tourists from many other countries. There are around 600 Jehovah’s Witnesses in the area. Each of the Churches of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Bible Baptist Church, and the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches has about 60 affiliates. Other denominational churches include St. Andrew’s Scots Church in Valletta (a mixed Presbyterian and Methodist congregation) and St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, as well as a Seventh-day Adventist church in Birkirkara. In 1983, a congregation of the New Apostolic Church was established in Gwardamangia.
The Jewish population of Malta peaked under Norman control in the Middle Ages. Malta and Sicily were annexed by the Aragonese in 1479, and the Alhambra Decree of 1492 compelled all Jews to flee the nation, allowing them to take just a few things with them. Several hundred Maltese Jews may have converted to Christianity to stay in the nation during the time. There is now just one Jewish congregation.
Zen Buddhism and the Bahá’ Faith both have about 40 adherents.
The Mariam Al-Batool Mosque is the only Muslim mosque in town. A Muslim elementary school was just established. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims in Malta, roughly 2,250 are immigrants, 600 are naturalized citizens, and 150 are Maltese by birth.
The projected net inflow (based on statistics from 2002 to 2004) was 1,913 people per year. Over the past decade, Malta has welcomed an average of 425 returning immigrants each year.
In 2006, a total of 1,800 illegal immigrants arrived in Malta through the North African coast. The majority of them planned to go to mainland Europe but ended up in Malta owing to their substandard boats breaking down or being apprehended by Maltese and other EU authorities. 967 illegal immigrants came in Malta in the first half of 2006, almost doubling the 473 who entered in the same time in 2005. Many immigrants have died in the Mediterranean crossing, with one noteworthy instance being the May 2007 Malta migrant boat tragedy. There have been numerous more boat sinkings since then, and as recently as April 2015, 700 immigrants died en way to Italy when their boat sank. Approximately 3,500 migrants perished in their effort to enter Europe in 2014.
Approximately 45 percent of immigrants who arrived in Malta were given refugee (5%) or protected humanitarian status (40 percent ). In 2005, a White Paper was published proposing the awarding of Maltese citizenship to refugees who had lived in Malta for more than 10 years. Historically, Malta provided shelter (and aided in their relocation) to about 800 East African Asians exiled from Uganda by Idi Amin, as well as slightly under a thousand Iraqis escaping Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.
Detention expenses alone for the first half of 2006 were €746,385.
Malta requested EU assistance in 2005 for irregular immigrant reception, repatriation of individuals refused refugee status, placement of refugees into EU countries, and maritime security. The European Council adopted The Global Approach to Migration: Priority Actions focusing on Africa and the Mediterranean in December 2005; however, the deployment of said actions has been limited to the western Mediterranean, putting additional strain on the central Mediterranean route for irregular immigration, of which Malta is a part.
Malta began offering citizenship in January 2014 for a €650,000 deposit plus investments, subject to residency and criminal background checks.
Most emigrants from Malta in the nineteenth century went to North Africa and the Middle East, but rates of return migration to Malta were significant. Nonetheless, Maltese communities sprung up in these areas. According to British consular estimates, there were 15,326 Maltese in Tunisia by 1900, and 15,000 individuals of Maltese ancestry were said to be residing in Algeria in 1903.
Malta experienced significant emigration as a result of the collapse of a construction boom in 1907 and after World War II, when the birth rate increased significantly, but most emigrants in the twentieth century went to destinations in the New World, particularly Australia, Canada, and the United States. Following WWII, Malta’s Emigration Department would help immigrants with the expense of their journey. 30% of the population emigrated between 1948 and 1967. Over 140,000 individuals left Malta on the aided passage program between 1946 and the late 1970s, with 57.6 percent going to Australia, 22% to the United Kingdom, 13% to Canada, and 7% to the United States.
Emigration fell precipitously in the mid-1970s and has since ceased to be a significant societal phenomenon. However, following Malta’s accession to the EU in 2004, expatriate communities have sprung up in a number of European nations, most notably Belgium and Luxembourg.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Malta, along with 32 other nations, is classed as having an advanced economy (IMF). Until 1800, Malta’s exports were based on cotton, tobacco, and its shipyards. Once under British authority, they began to rely on Malta Dockyard for Royal Navy assistance, particularly during the Crimean War in 1854. Craftsmen and others who served in the military benefitted from the military installation.
The completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 boosted Malta’s economy significantly, since there was a significant rise in the amount of ships that reached the port. Ships refueling at Malta’s ports aided the Entrepôt trade, bringing extra advantages to the island.
However, the economy started to decline towards the end of the nineteenth century, and by the 1940s, Malta’s economy was in severe trouble. One reason was the greater range of modern commercial ships, which necessitated fewer refueling stops.
Malta’s primary resources are now limestone, a favorable geographic position, and a productive labor force. Malta generates just around 20% of its food requirements, has limited freshwater resources due to the summer drought, and has no domestic energy sources other than the potential for solar energy from its abundant sunshine. Foreign commerce (acting as a freight trans-shipment hub), industry (particularly electronics and textiles), and tourism are all important to the economy.
Film production is becoming a more important part of the Maltese economy. The first feature film was made in Malta in 1925 (Sons of the Sea); since then, approximately 100 feature films have been completely or partly produced in the island. Malta has acted as a “stand-in” for a broad range of places and historical eras, including Ancient Greece, Ancient and Modern Rome, Iraq, and the Middle East, among many others. In 2005, the Maltese government established financial incentives for filmmakers. The current financial incentives for foreign productions are 25%, plus an extra 2% if Malta stands in as Malta; this means that a production may receive up to 27% back on qualifying expenditure in Malta.
The government is significantly investing in education, especially college.
In preparation for Malta’s accession to the European Union on May 1, 2004, it privatized several state-owned enterprises and liberalized markets. For example, on January 8, 2007, the government announced that it was selling its 40% share in MaltaPost in order to conclude a five-year-long privatization process. Malta was able to privatize telecommunications, postal services, shipyards, and shipbuilding in 2010.
Malta has made significant efforts to position itself as a worldwide participant in the cross-border fund administration industry. Malta, which competes with nations such as Ireland and Luxembourg, has a unique mix of a multilingual workforce and a robust legal system. Malta has a mixed reputation for transparency and a DAW Index score of 6, but both are likely to improve as the country implements a more comprehensive regulatory framework for financial services. Malta has a competent business development regulator, the MFSA, and the nation has been successful in luring gambling companies, aircraft and ship registration, credit-card issuing banking licenses, and fund administration. Service providers to these sectors, particularly fiduciary and trustee businesses, are an important component of the island’s development plan. Malta has made significant progress in adopting EU Financial Services Directives such as UCITs IV and, shortly, AIFMD. Malta has attracted a number of major companies, including IDS, Iconic Funds, Apex Fund Services, and TMF/Customs House, as a platform for alternative asset managers that must comply with new regulations.
Malta and Tunisia are presently considering economic use of their shared continental shelf, especially for petroleum exploration. Similar agreements are also being discussed between Malta and Libya.
There is no property tax in Malta. Its housing market, particularly around the port region, has been booming, with apartment prices in places like as Sliema and Gzira soaring.
According to Eurostat statistics, Maltese GDP per capita was €21,000 in 2010, representing 86% of the EU average.