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Country Facts

Area: 316 sq km
Population: 417,608 (2010)
Capital City: Valletta
People: Maltese
Languages: Maltese, English
Religion: Roman Catholic (98%)
Currency: Euro
Major political parties: Nationalist Party (in power) and Malta Labour Party
Government: Parliamentary democracy
President: Dr George Abela
Prime Minister: Dr Lawrence Gonzi
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister: Dr Tonio Borg
Membership of international groupings/organisations: the European Union (since May 2004); the Commonwealth (including the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group), United Nations (UN), Council of Europe (COE), and the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE). Rejoined PFP in 2009.

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Basic Economic Facts

GDP: €6.25 billion (2010)
GDP per capita: €14,881 (2010)
GDP Growth: 1.7% (2010)
Inflation: 2.0% (2010)
Unemployment: 6.5% (2010)
Major Industries: Tourism, electronics, the Malta Freeport (duty free container trans-shipment port), financial services, ICT, manufacturing industries, particularly pharmaceutical companies and semi-conductors.

Major trading partners: UK, Italy, France, USA, Germany, the Benelux countries and Libya.

Malta has largely escaped the global recession, being the last EU MS to go into recession, and the first to come out. It has suffered less than some European countries due to strong economic growth in the years preceding the global economic crisis, and also a low risk lending strategy in the financial services sector.

The banks are funded from resident deposits and their lending is almost exclusively local. The tourism industry has been badly hit, exacerbated by the strength of the Euro. In 2010, 415,000 British tourists visited Malta, spending 3.8 million nights and contributing roughly 9% to Malta’s GDP. 62% of those British tourists were 55 or older.

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Recent History

Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. British forces left Malta in 1979. In the 1970s and 1980s, the then Labour government, led by Dom Mintoff, forged links with China, the Soviet Union, North Korea and Libya. The (centre right) Nationalist Party’s election victory in 1987 saw a new emphasis on EU membership. Malta joined the EU on 1 May 2004. Neutrality remains enshrined in the Constitution. In March 2009 Malta rejoined Partnership for Peace.

Longer Historical Perspective

There are temples on Malta that date from 3800 BC (e.g. Ggantija on Gozo). The Phoenicians colonised the islands around 800 BC. The Romans made Malta part of their empire in 218 BC. St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta in AD 60, and converted the Maltese people to Christianity. Malta was under Arab rule in the 9th and 10th centuries which strengthened the Semitic roots of the Maltese language.

In 1530, the Emperor of Spain gave Malta to the Knights of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem. They survived a 3-month siege by the Turks in 1565 and governed until 1798 when Malta fell to Napoleon. In 1800, the Maltese expelled the French with the assistance of the British Royal Navy. In 1814, Malta became a British colony. Malta was an important naval base, being strategically placed between Europe and North Africa. During World War Two, it was subjected to a long blockade and 5 months of bombing raids by the Axis powers. Malta was devastated but did not surrender. In 1942 the island of Malta was awarded the George Cross: a unique tribute to Malta's fortitude.

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Relations with Neighbours


Malta has had strong economic ties with Libya and its North African neighbours, and worked hard prior to the current uprising to ensure that political relations remained warm. There were four Maltese PM/DPM level visits to Libya prior to March 2011, the most recent by the PM in early February 2011. Regular meetings at Ministerial level with Libya used to cover three main areas of mutual concern: Off shore oil exploration, fisheries and illegal seaborne immigration from sub Saharan Africans departing from Libya. Libya was an attractive market for Maltese manufacturers and services suppliers, and the current unrest has hit Malta’s economic interests. They will hope to benefit from the rebuilding efforts.

The Commonwealth

Malta hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (25-27 November 2005). It was opened by HM The Queen, and had the theme 'Networking the Commonwealth for Development'.

Relations with the UK

There are strong historical ties between Britain and Malta, going back to 1800, when the British Royal Navy blockaded the entrance of Grand Harbour and helped see off Napoleon. Malta remains a popular port of call for Royal Navy ships (24 have called since the start of 2011), including HMS Illustrious, which is twinned with the Three Cities (Senglea, Cospicua and Vittoriosa)

Postgraduate educational ties are strong – particularly in the professions. Family and business links are also strong. Around 415,000 British tourists visit the Maltese islands each year. The resident British population is estimated to be over 10,000.

HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh have long-standing ties with Malta, having lived here between 1949 and 1951 when HRH The Duke of Edinburgh was stationed as a Royal Naval Officer. They visited in 1992 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the award of the George Cross to Malta. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited alone in 2001. HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited in 2005 during CHOGM, and returned to Malta to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in October 2007. At the end of February 2011 the Duke of Kent paid a private visit to the island as President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In October 2000, President Guido de Marco made the first official visit to the UK by a Maltese President since Independence in 1964. PM Lawrence Gonzi visited London on 10 May 2011, together with the DPM and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tonio Borg, meeting the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

Recent Visits

Inward to the UK

-- Education, Youth & Employment Minister (Dr Louis Galea) - January 2007

-- Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture & Fisheries (Dr Fran Angius) - February 2007

-- Deputy Prime Minister (Dr Tonio Borg) - July 2007

-- Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (Dr Tonio Borg) - November 2008

-- Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (Dr Tonio Borg) - 09December 2010

-- Prime Minister (Dr Lawrence Gonzi) and DPM / Min For Affairs - May 2011

Outward to Malta

-- The Prime Minister and Mrs Blair, the Foreign Secretary (Jack Straw), the Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn) and the FCO Minister for the Commonwealth (Lord Triesman) for CHOGM - November 2005

-- United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officer (Sir Liam Donaldson) - November 2006

-- Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott MP - April 2007

-- HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh private visit - November 2007
UK Foreign Affairs Committee - January 2010

Lord Mayor of Westminster - May 2010

-- Duke of Kent, working visit - February 2011

-- Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox - March and October 2011

Foreign Secretary, William Hague - October 2011

-- HRH The Earl of Wessex in November 2011 on a working visit for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme

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The Republic of Malta is an archipelago, the three main islands being Malta, Gozo and Comino. It is situated in the centre of the Mediterranean (58 miles from Sicily, 180 miles from Libya).

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Malta’s business legislation and tax systems are considered amongst the most favourable in Europe and this is supported by its strategic location straddling the busiest shipping lanes in the Mediterranean. Malta has a strong financial services sector (HSBC is the largest private sector employer on the island) and a thriving on-line gaming industry. Ongoing strategies include specific targeting of knowledge economy sectors including financial services, information technology companies, research and development, and high end manufacturing.

Further information about Malta’s economy can be found at:
UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Malta ( .

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Recent Political Developments

Malta is a parliamentary republic with a parliament-elected President as head of state. It is a relatively new EU Member State (2004) and has just celebrated the sixth anniversary of its membership. It successfully adopted the Euro on 1 January 2008.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi (centre-right Nationalist Party) was re-elected for a second term in March 2008. On 4 April 09 Dr George Abela (Labour Party), became the 8th President of Malta. Dr Abela is the first President to come from an opposition party, and only the second President to receive unanimous approval from all political parties.

With the highest voluntary voter turnout rate in the world (invariably over 90%), Malta’s population is traditionally highly politically aware, participating enthusiastically in debates, elections and political events. Two parties dominate Malta’s polarised and evenly divided politics: the governing Nationalist Party and the opposition Labour Party.

Domestic issues dominate, though Malta values its position in the centre of the Mediterranean. Malta rejoined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 2009, but remains keen not to compromise her neutral status. Malta unexpectedly voted for the legalisation of divorce in May 2011, and the necessary legislation was passed to bring this into force at the start of October 2011.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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