The Republic of Malta, home to one world’s best collection of bays and cliffs, is an island nation on the Mediterranean Sea. The Republic consists of the island of Malta, the islands of Gozo and Comino, as well as the uninhabited islands of Cominotto and Filfla. Valletta, the vibrant capital city and main port of Malta, is a World Heritage site. Other Maltese cities include the old cities of Mdina and Rabat.
Malta is a densely populated country that nestles 7000 years of history passionately in its backyard. With an array of architectural splendours and scenic beauties on display, the Maltese Islands are often referred to as one big open-air museum. The folk music and singing tradition of Malta is a good example of the world famous Maltese Folklore. The population is around 350,000 and is homogeneous with its own identity and language. The official languages are Maltese and English with most of the people also fluent in Italian.
The Republic of Malta consists of an archipelago of Malta (390 sq kms.) Gozo (65 sq kms.) and Comino (2.5 sq kms.). Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, the Maltese Islands lie about 100 kms. from Sicily and 290 kms. from North Africa. The country is located on the southern most tip of Europe.The Maltese coastline consists of a number of bays, rocky coves, impressive cliffs and some sandy beaches. Only four percent of the island is covered with forests and woodland. Agriculture takes over thirty percent of the land area.
Overall, Malta's topography is characterised by a series of low hills and slopes towards the Northeast and low-lying land to the Southeast. It has no mountains or rivers and the terrain is low and rocky with coastal cliffs. Though the Maltese soil is poor and the island suffers from a lack of water, there are many thriving family farms and vineyards. The wetland of the Ghadira Nature Reserve is home to a variety of birds and over two hundred species.
Malta has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters. The country enjoys sunshine nearly all year long. The average rainfall is about 590 mm. and temperatures range between 14°C in winter and 32°C in summer.
Like all other countries with a long tradition of foreign invasions and interaction among people, Malta has a rich element history to its credit. The islands of Malta and Gozo became witness to human existence around 5200 BC. The first inhabitants of the islands crossed over from Sicily. The impressive structures of Stone Age and Bronze Age still stand out on the Maltese landscape. The foreign powers who ruled the country in different time periods include the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, Roman, Arab invaders, the German Hohenstaufen Dynasty, Sicilian Angevins, Germans and Spaniards.
In 1530 the Spanish passed Malta to the order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The French then came to rule in 1798 but after the Napoleonic Wars, Britain acquired the island. Malta became independent from the British in 1964. . It took ten years for Malta to become a republic. Malta became a member of the Commonwealth and its ties with UK were renewed. The Republic of Malta joined the EU formally on 1 May 2004.
Traditional boat of Malta
Situated at the crossroads of maritime routes, the Islands of Malta have been an important trading post for a long time. It prospered notably as a stronghold of shipping services, finance and tourism after the membership of the EU in 2004. The Suez Canal also contributed considerably in blooming of Malta’s economy. The major industries of Malta include shipbuilding and repair, construction, furniture, electronics, textiles, clothing, footwear, food and beverages. Out of the strong labor force of the country, over seventy percent are employed in the service sector and three percent in the agriculture.
Limestone is the largest natural resource of the country. Agricultural products include wheat, barley, potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes, figs, grapes, oranges, lemons, melons, strawberries and honey. Fishing plays a traditional role in the Maltese economy and remains the main source of food for the population. The economy opened up and invited privatisation after joining EU and is negotiating with Turkey regarding petroleum prospects. Moreover, the wealth of museums, historical attractions and sceneries has helped in boosting the tourism industry of Malta immensely.
Valletta Aerial view
Malta boasts of to be a democratic republic and relies on a unicameral House for administrative purposes. The House of Representatives of Malta usually consists of 65 seats. But it is flexible too. If a party manages an absolute legislative majority of votes but fails to acquire the same in seats, that party is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary majority. The House members, under normal circumstances, serve five-year terms. They are elected through a popular vote on the basis of proportional representation. The House of Representatives elect the President of the Republic himself for five years. The President on advice of the Prime Minister can dissolve the House earlier.
After elections, the President usually appoints the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition Prime Minister for a five-year term. The deputy prime minister is also appointed by him but on the advice of the Prime Minister.