About Malta and the Maltese Islands – MGI Malta

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malta

Flag

Coat of arms

Geographic Location

Location of  Malta  (dark green)

– in Europe  (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (green)  —  [Legend]

 Capital Valletta
35°53′N 14°30′E / 35.883°N 14.5°E / 35.883; 14.5
Population
 - 2011 estimate 452,515 [2] (171st)
 - 2007 census 410,567[3]1
 - Density 1,306.8/km2 (7th)
3,413.9/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
 - Total $10.757 billion[4]
 - Per capita $25,428[4]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
 - Total $8.896 billion[4]
 - Per capita $21,028[4]
Gini (2007) 26.0[5] (low)
HDI (2011) 0.832[6] (very high) (36th)
Currency Euro (€)2 (EUR)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Date formats dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Drives on the Left
ISO 3166 code MT
Internet TLD .mt 3
Calling code 356

 
General

Malta consisting of an archipelago situated in the centre of the Mediterranean, 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya, with Gibraltar 1,755 km (1,091 mi) to the west and Alexandria 1,508 km (937 mi) to the east. Malta covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi) in land area, making it one of the world’s smallest states. It is also one of the most densely populated countries worldwide. The de facto capital city of Malta is Valletta. The main island comprises many towns, which together form one Larger Urban Zone (LUZ) with a population of 368,250 according to Eurostat The country has two official languages, Maltese (constitutionally the national language) and English.

 History

Throughout history, Malta’s location has given it great strategic importance, and a succession of powers including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St John, French and the British ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974, whilst retaining membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004. Malta is also party to the Schengen Agreement and in 2008 it became part of the eurozone.

Malta has a long Christian legacy and is an Apostolic see. According to the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible, St. Paul was shipwrecked on “Melite”, as the Greeks called the island, and ministered there. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta as declared by the Maltese constitution

Malta is internationally renowned as a tourist destination, with numerous recreational areas and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Knights of Malta

In 1530 Emperor Charles V gave the islands to the Knights Hospitaller under the leadership of Frenchman Philippe de Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, Grand Master of the Order, in perpetual lease. 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.Frenchman Jean Parisot de la Valette

The knights, led by Frenchman Jean Parisot de la Valette, Grand Master of the Order, withstood a siege by the Ottomans in 1565. The knights, with the help of the Maltese, were victorious, and speaking of the battle Voltaire said, “Nothing is more well 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

The Beheading of Saint John, by Caravaggio.The Beheading of Saint John, by Caravaggio. Oil on canvas, 361 × 520 cm (142.13 in × 204.72 in). Oratory of the Co-Cathedral.

The Knights’ reign ended when Napoleon captured Malta on his way to Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. Over the years, the power of the Knights declined and the Order became 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

British Empire and World War II

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. Malta’s position half-way between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal proved to be its main asset during these years and it was considered an important stop on the way to India. This was an important trade route for the British and thus, the Maltese people took great advantage of this alliance as 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 the entry of wheat (for bread making) and bacon.

During World War II, Malta played an important role owing to its proximity to Axis shipping lanes. 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 Singapore had. A replica 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 and Republic

Malta achieved its independence on 21 September 1964 (Independence Day) after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, led by Maltese Prime Minister George Borg 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.[63] Following the European Council of 21–22 June 2007, Malta joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2008.[64]

 Politics

Malta is a republic whose parliamentary system and public administration is closely modeled 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 sixty-nine Members of Parliament.

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 Nationalist Party is currently at the helm of the government, the Prime Minister being Lawrence Gonzi. The Labour Party, with Joseph Muscat as its leader, is in opposition. There are a number of smaller political parties in Malta that presently have no parliamentary representation.

 Climate

Malta has a Subtropical–Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa), with mild winters and warm to hot summers. Rain occurs mainly in winter, with summer being generally dry.

The average yearly temperature is 22–23 °C (72–73 °F) during the day and 15 °C (59 °F) during the night.

Economy

Malta is classified as an advanced economy together with 32 other countries according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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.

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, with several big-budget foreign films shooting in Malta each year. The country has increased the exports of many other types of services such as banking and finance.

Malta is part of a monetary union, the Eurozone .

The government is investing heavily in education, which accounts for the largest part of the national budget.  Health is the second highest expenses of the Maltese exchequer.

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.

According to Eurostat data, Maltese PPS GDP per capita stood at 76 per cent of the EU average in 2008.

Banking and 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.

Malta is one of the world’s financial centers.

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.

Transport

Traffic in Malta moves on the left, as in the UK.

Traffic in Malta moves on the left, as in the UK. Car ownership in Malta is exceedingly high, given the very small size of the islands; it is the fourth-highest in the European Union. The number of registered cars in 1990 amounted to 182,254, giving an automobile density of 582 /km2 (1,510 /sq mi).

Malta has 2,254 kilometres (1,401 mi) of road, 1,972 km (1,225 mi) (87.5%) of which are paved and 282 km (175 mi) were unpaved (December 2003).

The national airline is Air Malta, which is based at Malta International Airport, and which operates services to 36 destinations in Europe and North Africa. The owners of Air Malta are the Government of Malta (98%) and private investors (2%). Air Malta employs 1,547 staff.

Communications

The mobile penetration rate in Malta stood at 101.3% as at the end of 2009. Malta uses the GSM900 & UMTS(3G) mobile phone systems. This is compatible with the rest of the European countries, Australia and also New Zealand.

There are no area codes in Malta, subscribers’ numbers having eight digits. Fixed line telephone numbers have the prefix 2, while mobile telephone numbers have the prefix 7 or 9. When calling Malta from abroad, one must first dial the international access code, then the country code +356 and the subscriber’s number.

Currency

From 1972 until introduction of the Euro in 2008, the currency was the Maltese Lira, which had replaced the Maltese pound. The pound replaced the Maltese scudo in 1798.

Tourism

Malta is a popular tourist destination, with 1.2 million tourists every year. Three times

Languages

The Maltese language (Maltese: Malti) is the constitutional national language of Malta. Alongside the Maltese Language, English 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.

Maltese is originally a Semitic language descended from Arabic in its Tunisian or Siculo-Arabic (from southern Italy) form. 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 , ħ, and ie.

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 multi-lingual countries in the European Union.

Religion

 The Constitution of Malta declares Roman Catholicism as the state religion although entrenched provisions for the freedom of religion are made. Freedom House and the World Factbook report that 98% of the population is Roman Catholic, though this figure is highly debatable.

 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 parrokjali”) 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.

The Acts of the Apostles tells of how St. Paul, on his way from Crete 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. The Acts of the Apostles says St. Paul spent three months on the island, curing the sick including the father of Publius, the “chief man of the island”.

 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 Arab invasion.

 Education

Primary schooling has been compulsory since 1946; secondary education up to the age of sixteen was made compulsory in 1971. The state and the Church provide education free of charge, both running a number of schools in Malta and Gozo,

 Education in Malta is based on the British model. Primary school lasts six years. At the age of 11 pupils sit for an examination to enter a secondary school, either a church school (the Common Entrance Examination) or a state school. Pupils sit for SEC O-level examinations at the age of 16, with passes obligatory in certain subjects such as mathematics, English and Maltese. Pupils may opt to continue studying at a sixth form college such as Junior College, St Aloysius’ College, De La Salle College, St Edward’s College or else at another post-secondary institution such as MCAST. The sixth form course lasts for two years, at the end of which students sit for the Matriculation examination. Subject to their performance, students may then apply for an undergraduate degree or diploma.

 The University of Malta (U.o.M.) provides Tertiary education at diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate level. The adult literacy rate is 99.5%

Healthcare

Malta has a long history of providing publicly funded health care. The first hospital recorded in the country was already functioning by 1372. Today, Malta has both a public healthcare system, known as the government healthcare service, where healthcare is free at the point of delivery, and a private healthcare system. Malta has a strong general practitioner-delivered primary care base and the public hospitals provide secondary and tertiary care.

Malta was ranked number five in the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems, compared to the United States (at 37), Australia (at 32), United Kingdom (at 18) and Canada (at 30).

 Cuisine

Maltese cuisine shows strong Sicilian and English influences as well as influences of Spanish, Maghrebin and Provençal cuisines. A number of regional variations, particularly with regards to Gozo, can be noted as well as seasonal variations associated with the seasonal availability of produce and Christian feasts (such as Lent, Easter and Christmas). Food has been important historically in the development of a national identity in particular the traditional fenkata (i.e. the eating of stewed or fried rabbit).

Holidays

 Maltese public holidays

Day

Holiday

1 January New Year’s Day
10 February St. Paul’s Shipwreck
19 March St. Joseph
31 March Freedom Day
March/April (date changes) Good Friday
1 May Labour Day
7 June Sette Giugno
29 June St. Peter and St. Paul (L-Imnarja)
15 August The Assumption (Santa Marija)
8 September Our Lady of Victories
21 September Independence Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
13 December Republic Day
25 December Christmas Day