General background: Great Britain formally acquired
possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly
supported the UK through both World Wars and remained
in the Commonwealth when it became independent in
1964. A decade later Malta became a republic. Over
the last 15 years, the island has become a freight
transshipment point, financial center, and tourist
destination. It is an official candidate for EU membership.
Area comparative: Slightly less than twice
the size of Washington, DC.
Climate: Mediterranean with mild, rainy winters
and hot, dry summers
Terrain: Mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected
plains; many coastal cliffs
Population: 397,499 (July 2002 est.)
Ethnic groups: Maltese (descendants of ancient
Carthaginians and Phoenicians, with strong elements
of Italian and other Mediterranean stock)
Religions: Roman Catholic 91%
Language: Maltese (official), English (official)
Government type: Republic
Legal system: Based on English common law
and Roman civil law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction,
Economic overview: Major resources are limestone,
a favorable geographic location, and a productive
labor force. Malta produces only about 20% of its
food needs, has limited freshwater supplies, and has
no domestic energy sources. The economy is dependent
on foreign trade, manufacturing (especially electronics
and textiles), and tourism. Malta is privatizing state-controlled
firms and liberalizing markets in order to prepare
for membership in the European Union and is expected
to complete EU accession negotiations in 2002. The
island is divided politically, however, over the question
of joining the EU.
Communication/Telephone system: Automatic system
satisfies normal requirements.
Places of interest: Travelers can enjoy a refreshing
balance of convenience and unvarnished local charm,
and can get comfort for considerably less than at
many comparable Mediterranean destinations.