Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Malta country profile

Map of Malta

The Maltese archipelago includes the islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino, Comminotto and Filfla.

It has a history of colonial control spanning centuries.

Located south of the Italian island of Sicily between Europe and North Africa, it has been occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and latterly France and Britain.


Independence from Britain was achieved in 1964, after the Maltese people were awarded the George Cross for defending the island during World War II.

Forty years on Malta was the smallest of the 10 countries to join the EU in May 2004. It joined the eurozone in 2008.

Valletta - general view
Malta has been shaped by centuries of foreign rule

Since becoming an EU member, the tiny island has reported an increasing problem with immigration from north Africa and has requested more help to deal with it. The UN refugee agency has criticised the island's policy of keeping asylum seekers in detention for 18 months.

Over the centuries, Malta's strategic position fostered its development as an important trading post and it remains a leading centre for container and freight transhipment.

Malta is a popular holiday destination and tourism is the nation's main source of income.


  • Full name: Republic of Malta
  • Population: 418,000 (UN, 2011)
  • Capital: Valletta
  • Area: 316 sq km (122 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Maltese, English
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 78 years (men), 82 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: Euro from 1 January 2008
  • Main exports: Machinery and transport equipment
  • GNI per capita: US $19,270 (World Bank, 2010)
  • Internet domain: .mt
  • International dialling code: +356


President: George Abela

Prime minister: Lawrence Gonzi

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi
Lawrence Gonzi led Malta into the EU

Lawrence Gonzi took office in March 2004, just before Malta entered the EU.

His ruling Nationalist Party won re-election by a slim margin in March 2008.

A lawyer by profession, he became a government minister in 1998.


Many of Malta's newspapers and broadcasters have strong political affiliations. Dailies and weeklies appear in Maltese and English.

Maltese radio began in the mid-1930s, partly to counter Fascist propaganda broadcasts from Italy. Malta Television launched in 1962, five years after the islanders started receiving TV signals from Italy. Italian channels remain popular.

The first private broadcasting licences were granted to the two major political parties and the Catholic Church. More stations followed and there is now a proliferation of privately-run radio stations and several TV channels.

Since Malta is a member of the Council of Europe, media laws are based on European law.

Cable TV was introduced in 1992 and satellite TV is widely-watched. More than 240,000 Maltese were online by mid-2010 (Internetworldstats).

The press




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The Maltese national anthem




Compiled by BBC Monitoring

Malta's reaction to historic vote
29 May 11 |  Europe
Saving Malta's ancient temples
18 May 09 |  Europe
Malta's PM wins close re-election
10 Mar 08 |  Europe
Malta struggles with migrants
09 Jul 07 |  Europe
Clock ticks for Malta's spring hunt
01 May 07 |  Europe
Briny future for vulnerable Malta
04 Apr 07 |  Science & Environment
Malta hopes for air tourism boost
30 Mar 07 |  Europe
Malta faces African emigrant flood
29 Sep 06 |  Europe
Operation Pedestal: Saving Malta
01 Oct 02 |  Europe


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