President: George Abela (2009)
Prime Minister: Joseph Muscat
Total area: 124 sq mi (321 sq km)
Population (2010 est.): 406,771 (growth
rate: 0.4%); birth rate: 10.3/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.7/1000;
life expectancy: 79.6; density per sq km: 1,277
Capital (2003 est.):
Valletta, 194,200 (metro. area) 6,900 (city
Largest city: Birkirkara,
Monetary unit: Euro
National name: Repubblika ta'
Current government officials
Maltese and English (both official)
Maltese (descendants of ancient Carthaginians
and Phoenicians, with strong elements of Italian and other
Roman Catholic 98%
Independence Day, September 21
Literacy rate: 93% (2003 census)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2009
est.): $9.831 billion; per capita $23,800. Real growth rate:
–2.2%. Inflation: 1.8%. Unemployment: 6.9%. Arable
land: 31%. Agriculture: potatoes, cauliflower, grapes,
wheat, barley, tomatoes, citrus, cut flowers, green peppers; pork,
milk, poultry, eggs. Labor force: 160,000; agriculture 3%,
industry 22%, services 75%. Industries: tourism, electronics,
shipbuilding and repair, construction, food and beverages, textiles,
footwear, clothing, tobacco. Natural resources: limestone,
salt, arable land. Exports: $2.26 billion (2009
est.): machinery and transport equipment, manufactures.
Imports: $3.84 billion (2009 est.): machinery and
transport equipment, manufactured and semimanufactured goods; food,
drink, tobacco. Major trading partners: U.S., France,
Singapore, UK, Germany, Italy (2004).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines
in use: 187,000 (1997); mobile cellular: 17,691 (1997). Radio
broadcast stations: AM 1, FM 18, shortwave 6 (1999).
Radios: 255,000 (1997). Television broadcast stations:
6 (2000). Televisions: 280,000 (1997). Internet Service
Providers (ISPs): 6 (2002). Internet users: 59,000
Transportation: Railways: 0 km.
Highways: total: 2,254 km; paved: 1,972 km; unpaved: 282 km
(2000). Ports and harbors: Marsaxlokk, Valletta.
Airports: 1 (2002).
International disputes: none.
Major sources and definitions
The five Maltese islands—Malta, Gozo,
Comino, Comminotto, and Filflawith—have a combined land area smaller
than Philadelphia. Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, about 60 mi
(97 km) south of the southeast tip of Sicily.
The strategic importance of Malta was recognized
by the Phoenicians, who occupied it, as did, in turn, the Greeks,
Carthaginians, and Romans. The apostle Paul was shipwrecked there in A.D. 60. With the division of the Roman Empire in
A.D. 395, Malta was assigned to the eastern
portion dominated by Constantinople. Between 870 and 1090, it came under
Arab rule. In 1091, the Norman noble Roger I, then ruler of Sicily, came
to Malta with a small retinue and defeated the Arabs. The Knights of St.
John (Malta), who obtained the three habitable Maltese islands of Malta,
Gozo, and Comino from Charles V in 1530, reached their highest fame when
they withstood an attack by superior Turkish forces in 1565.
Napoléon seized Malta in 1798, but the French forces were ousted by
British troops the next year, and British rule was confirmed by the Treaty
of Paris in 1814.
Independence and EU Accession
Malta suffered heavy attacks by German and Italian
aircraft during World War II, but was never invaded by the Axis powers. It
became an independent nation on Sept. 21, 1964, and a republic on Dec. 13,
1974, but it remained in the British Commonwealth. In 1979, when its
alliance with Great Britain ended, Malta sought to guarantee its
neutrality through agreements with other countries. Although Malta applied
for membership in the European Union, the Labour Party, after winning the
election in Oct. 1996, froze Malta's EU application and withdrew from
the NATO Partnership for Peace program in an effort to maintain its
neutrality. When the Nationalist Party won the Sept. 1998 elections,
however, it revived the EU accession bid, and in May 2004 Malta joined the
EU. In July 2005, Malta ratified the proposed EU constitution. The ruling
Nationalist Party was narrowly reelected in March 2008, ensuring Gonzi a
second term as prime minister.
2013 General Election Brings Change
On March 9, 2013, Malta held its general election. The Labour Party won 39 seats in the House of Representatives, where 35 seats are needed for a majority. Therefore, the Labour Party defeated the Nationalist Party, which had been in power for the last 15 years. The Labour Party won with a 36,000 vote margin, a landslide in Malta.
On March 11, 2013, Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat took office as prime minister. Previously, from 2004 to 2008, he had been a member of the European Parliament. He was leader of the opposition from October 2008 through the 2013 election.
See also Encyclopedia: Malta.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes:
Central Office of Statistics www.nso.gov.mt/ .
Information Please® Database, © 2013 Pearson
Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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