2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Europe; European Countries

Flag of Malta Coat of arms of Malta
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem:  L-Innu Malti
("The Maltese Anthem")

Location of Malta
Location of Malta (dark green)
– on the European continent (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (light green)
Capital Valletta ( de facto)
Largest city Birkirkara
Official languages Maltese, English
Demonym Maltese
Government Parliamentary Republic
 -  President Edward Fenech Adami
 -  Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi
 -  from the United Kingdom September 21, 1964 
 -  Republic December 13, 1971 
EU accession May 1, 2004
 -  Total 316 km² ( 185th)
121  sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.001
 -  2007 estimate 410,290 ( 174th)
 -  2005 census 404,5001 
 -  Density 1,282/km² ( 7th)
3,339/sq mi
GDP ( PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $9.396 billion ( 140th)
 -  Per capita $22,907 ( 38th)
GDP (nominal) 2006 estimate
 -  Total $5.39 billion ( 120th)
 -  Per capita $13,408 ( 35th)
HDI (2007) 0.878 (high) ( 34th)
Currency Euro ( €)2 Banks ( EUR)
Time zone CET ( UTC+1)
 -  Summer ( DST) CEST ( UTC+2)
Internet TLD .mt 3
Calling code +356
1 Total population includes foreign residents. Maltese residents population estimate at end 2004 was 389,769. All official population data provided by the NSO .
2Before 2008: Maltese lira
3 Also .eu, shared with other European Union member states.

Malta, officially the Republic of Malta ( Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta), is a small and densely populated island nation comprising an archipelago of seven islands, three of which are inhabited. It is located in the Mediterranean Sea in Southern Europe just 93 km (58 mi) south of Sicily, giving the country a warm, Mediterranean climate, and 288 km (179 mi) to its south is North Africa. The nation's de facto capital city is the historic Valletta.

Throughout much of its history, Malta has been considered a crucial strategic location due in large part to its position in the Mediterranean Sea. It was held by several ancient cultures including Sicilians, Romans, Phoenicians, Byzantines and others. The island is commonly associated with the Knights of St. John who ruled it. This, along with the historic Biblical shipwreck of St. Paul on the island, ingrained the strong Roman Catholic legacy which is still the official and most practised religion in Malta today.

The country's official languages are Maltese and English, the latter a legacy from Malta's period as a British colony – the United Kingdom is the most recent outside ruling power. Malta gained independence in 1964 and is currently a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, as well as the European Union which it joined in 2004.


The origin of the term "Malta" is uncertain, though the modern day variation is from the Maltese language. The more common etymology is that it comes from the Greek word μέλι (meli) ('honey'). The Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melite) meaning "honey" or "honey-sweet" possibly due to Malta's unique production of honey; Malta has had an endemic species of bee which lives on the island, giving it the common nickname the "land of honey". Not only was there Greek influence on the island as early as 700 BC, but the island was later dominated by the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire from 395 to 870.

Another etymology given is the Phoenician word Maleth meaning "a haven".


Early settlements of Malta

Ancient Mnajdra temples.
Ancient Mnajdra temples.

The Maltese islands were first settled in 5200 BC by stone age farmers who had arrived from the nearby, much larger island of Sicily, they were called Sicanians. During 3500 BC, these people built the oldest free-standing structures and oldest religious structures in the world, in the form of the megalithic Ġgantija temples on Gozo, other early temples include those at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra. Around 700 BC, there was Ancient Greek culture on Malta, especially around the area of Valletta. A century later the natives were joined on the island by Phoenician traders, who used the islands as an outpost for their trade explorations in the Mediterranean Sea.

After the fall of Tyre, the islands later came under the control of Carthage (400 BC), a former Phoenician colony, and then of Rome (218 BC). The islands prospered under Roman rule, during which time they were considered a Municipium and a Foederata Civitas. Many Roman antiquities still exist, testifying to the close link between the Maltese inhabitants and the people of Rome. The island was a favourite among Roman soldiers as a place to retire from active service. In AD 60, the islands were visited by Saint Paul, who is said to have been shipwrecked on the shores of the aptly-named " San Pawl il-Baħar" (Saint Paul's Bay). Studies of the currents and prevalent winds at the time however, render it more likely that the shipwreck occurred in or around Daħlet San Tumas in Marsascala.

After a period of Byzantine rule (fourth to ninth century) and a probable sack by the Vandals, the islands were conquered by the Arabs in AD 870. The Arabs, who generally tolerated the population's Christianity, introduced the cultivation of citrus fruits and cotton, and irrigation systems. Arab influence can be seen most prominently in the modern Maltese language, a Semitic language which also contains significant Romance influences, and is written in a variation of the Latin alphabet.

The period of Arab rule lasted until 1091, when the islands were taken by the Siculo-Normans. A century later the last Norman king, Tancredo di Lecce, appointed Margarito di Brindisi the first Count of Malta. Subsequent rulers included the Swabian, Angevin, Aragonese, Castillians who reconstituted a County of Malta in 1283. The Maltese nobility was established during this period; some of it dating back to 1400. Around thirty-two noble titles remain in use today, of which the oldest is the Barony of Djar il-Bniet e Buqana.

Knights of Malta and Napoleon

de la Valette defended in the Great Siege of Malta.
de la Valette defended in the Great Siege of Malta.

In 1530 Charles I of Spain gave the islands to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in perpetual lease. The Crown of Aragon had owned the islands as part of its Mediterranean empire for some time. 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. They withstood a full-blown siege by the Ottoman Turks in 1565, at the time the greatest naval power in the Mediterranean sea. After this they decided to increase the fortifications, particularly in the inner-harbour area, where the new city of Valletta, named after Grand Master Jean de la Valette, was built.

Aerial view of Valletta.
Aerial view of Valletta.

Their reign ended when Malta was captured by Napoleon en route to his expedition of Egypt during the French Revolutionary Wars in 1798. As a ruse, Napoleon asked for safe harbour to resupply his ships, and then turned his guns against his hosts once safely inside Valletta. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim capitulated, and Napoleon stayed in Malta for a few days, during which time he systematically looted the movable assets of the Order, and established an administration controlled by his nominees. He then sailed for Egypt, leaving a substantial garrison in Malta.

The occupying French forces were unpopular, however, due particularly to their negative attitude towards religion. Their financial and religious reforms did not go down well with the citizens. The Maltese rebelled against them, and the French were forced behind the fortifications.

Great Britain, along with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, sent ammunition and aid to the rebels, and Britain also sent her navy, which instigated a blockade of the islands. The isolated French forces, under General Claude-Henri Belgrand de Vaubois, surrendered in 1800, and the island became a British Dominion, being presented by several Maltese leaders to Sir Alexander Ball.

British rule 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 Gibraltar and the Suez Canal proved to be its main asset during these years, and it was considered to be an important stop on the way to India.

The Royal Opera House, Valletta, bombed to the ground during World War II.
The Royal Opera House, Valletta, bombed to the ground during World War II.

In the early 1930s, the British Mediterranean Fleet, which was at the time the main contributor for the commerce on the island, was moved to Alexandria as an economic measure. Malta played an important role during World War II, owing to its proximity to Axis shipping lanes. The bravery of the Maltese people in their long struggle against enemy attack moved HM King George VI to award the George Cross to Malta on a collective basis on April 15, 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 was surrendered, as Singapore had been. 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 the collective George Cross.

A karrozzin near Auberge de Castille.
A karrozzin near Auberge de Castille.


After the war, and after the Malta Labour Party's unsuccessful attempt at "Integration with Britain", Malta was granted independence on September 21, 1964 ( Independence Day). Under its 1964 constitution, Malta initially retained Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Malta, with a Governor-General exercising executive authority on her behalf. On December 13, 1974 ( Republic Day) it became a republic within the Commonwealth, with the President as head of state. A defence agreement signed soon after independence (and re-negotiated in 1972) expired on March 31, 1979 ( Freedom Day) when the British military forces were withdrawn. Malta adopted an official policy of neutrality in 1980 and for a brief period was a member of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries. In 1989 Malta was the venue of an important summit between US President Bush and Soviet leader Gorbachev, their first face-to-face encounter, which signaled the end of the Cold War.

Malta joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. Following the European Council of 21 to 22 June 2007 it joined the Eurozone on January 1, 2008.

Politics and government

Dr. Edward Fenech Adami has been the President of Malta since 2004.
Dr. Edward Fenech Adami has been the President of Malta since 2004.

Malta is a republic, whose parliamentary system and public administration is closely modeled on the Westminster system. The unicameral House of Representatives, (Maltese: Il-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti), 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-five Members of Parliament. However, where a party wins an absolute majority of votes, but does not have a majority of seats, that party is given additional seats to ensure a parliamentary majority. The Constitution of Malta provides that the President appoint as Prime Minister the member of the House who is best able to command a (governing) majority in the House.

The President of the Republic is elected every five years by the House of Representatives. 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 Malta Labour Party, with Dr. Joseph Muscat as its leader, which is a social democratic party. The Nationalist Party is currently (2008) at the helm of the government, the Prime Minister being Dr. Lawrence Gonzi. The Malta Labour Party is in opposition. There are a number of smaller political parties in Malta that presently have no parliamentary representation.


Map of Malta
Map of Malta

Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean Sea (in its eastern basin), some 93 km south of the Italian island of Sicily across the Malta Channel; east of Tunisia and north of Libya in Africa. Only the three largest islands Malta Island (Malta), Gozo (Għawdex), and Comino (Kemmuna) are inhabited. The smaller islands, such as Filfla, Cominotto and the Islands of St. Paul are uninhabited. Numerous bays along the indented coastline of the islands provide good harbours. The archipelago itself lies on the edge of the African tectonic plate, as it borders with the Eurasian plate. The landscape is characterised by low hills with terraced fields. The highest point is at Ta' Dmejrek on Malta Island at 253 metres (830  ft) near Dingli. Although there are some small rivers at times of high rainfall, there are no permanent rivers or lakes on Malta. However, some watercourses are found around the island that have fresh water running all year round. Such places are Baħrija, l-Intaħleb and San Martin. Running water in Gozo is found at Lunzjata Valley.

Malta implemented the Schengen Agreement on December 21, 2007. Customs and border controls remained at airports until March 2008.

The island of Comino
The island of Comino

Contrary to popular belief, the south of Malta is not Europe's most southern point; that distinction belongs to the Greek island of Gavdos.

Phytogeographically, Malta belongs to the Liguro-Tyrrhenian province of the Mediterranean Region within the Boreal Kingdom. According to the WWF, the territory of Malta belongs to the ecoregion of Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests.


The climate is Mediterranean ( Köppen climate classification Csa), with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. There is no real thermal dormant season for plants, although plant growth can be checked briefly by abnormal cold in winter (patches of ground frost may occur in inland locales), and summer heat and aridity may cause vegetation to wilt. Effectively there are only two seasons, which makes the islands attractive for tourists, especially during the drier months. However, strong winds can make Malta feel cold during the springtime.

Water supply poses a problem on Malta, as the summer is both rainless and the time of greatest water use, and the winter rainfall often falls as heavy showers running off to the sea rather than soaking into the ground. Malta depends on underground reserves of fresh water, drawn through a system of water tunnels called the Ta' Kandja galleries, which average about 97 m. below surface and extend like the spokes of a wheel. In the galleries in Malta's porous limestone, fresh water lies in a lens upon brine. More than half the potable water of Malta is produced by desalination, which creates further issues of fossil fuel use and pollution.

In January 2007 International Living chose Malta as the country with the best climate in the world.

The lowest temperature ever recorded at Valletta was on February 19, 1895, with +1.2 ℃ (34.2 ℉), and the highest temperature was +43.8 ℃ (110.8 ℉) recorded in August 1999 at Luqa International Airport. An unofficial lowest temperature of −1.7 ℃ (28.9 ℉) was recorded on February 1, 1962 in the Ta' Qali airfield with snow on the ground. Snow is virtually unheard of, with very few and brief snow flurries recorded in February 1895, January 1905 and January 31st, 1962. No accumulation has been reported on the coast at least since 1800, but in the last day of January 1962 snow briefly covered some parts of the interior of the main island. The following night the only frost in the history of Malta was recorded in the in the Ta' Qali airfield.

Month Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg high °C (°F) 21 (71) 15 (59) 15 (59) 16 (61) 18 (65) 22 (72) 27 (80) 30 (86) 30 (86) 28 (82) 24 (75) 19 (67) 16 (61)
Avg low temperature °C (°F) 15 (60) 9 (49) 9 (49) 10 (51) 12 (54) 15 (59) 19 (66) 22 (71) 22 (72) 20 (69) 18 (64) 14 (57) 11 (52)
Source: Weatherbase


The Grand Harbour
The Grand Harbour

Until 1800 Malta had very few industries except the cotton, tobacco and shipyards industry. The dockyard was later used by the British for military purposes. At times of war Malta's economy prospered due to its strategic location. This could be seen during the Crimean War of 1854. This benefited those who had a military role, as well as the craftsmen.

In 1869 the opening of the Suez Canal benefited Malta's economy greatly, as there was a massive increase in the shipping which entered the port. Entrepôt trade saw many ships stopping at Malta's docks for refuelling, which brought great benefits to the population. Towards the end of the 19th century the economy began declining, and by the 1940s Malta's economy was in serious crisis. This was partially due to the longer range of newer merchant ships which required less frequent refuelling stops.

Presently, Malta’s major resources are limestone, a favourable geographic location and a productive labour 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 (serving as a freight trans-shipment point), manufacturing (especially electronics and textiles) and tourism. Tourism infrastructure has increased dramatically over the years and a number of good-quality hotels are present on the island. An increasing number of Maltese now travel abroad on holiday. Although they are still a net importer of tourism, the ratio of inbound tourists to outbound tourists is decreasing. 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.

The government is investing heavily in the country's provision of education. As all education is free, Malta is currently producing a pool of qualified persons which heavily contribute to the country's growing economy.

Malta has recently privatised some state-controlled firms and liberalised markets in order to prepare for membership in the European Union, which it joined on May 1, 2004. For example, the government announced on January 8, 2007 that it is selling its 40% stake in Maltapost, in order to complete a privatisation process which has been ongoing for the past five years. Malta and Tunisia are currently discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for petroleum exploration.

The Maltese government entered ERM II on May 4, 2005, and adopted the euro as the country's currency on January 1, 2008. Maltese euro coins feature the Maltese Cross on €2 and €1 coins, the Maltese Coat of Arms on the €0.50, €0.20 and €0.10 coins, and the Mnajdra Temples on the €0.05, €0.02 and €0.01 coins.


The objectives of the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) are to maintain a military organisation with the primary aim of defending the Islands' integrity according to the defence roles as set by Government in an efficient and cost effective manner. This is achieved by emphasising the maintenance of Malta's territorial waters and airspace integrity.

The AFM also engages in combating terrorism, fighting against illicit drug trafficking, conducting anti-illegal immigrant and anti-illegal fishing operations, operating Search and Rescue (SAR) services, and physical/electronic security/surveillance of sensitive locations. Malta's Search and Rescue area extends from east of Tunisia to west of Crete covering an area of around 250,000 km².

As a military organisation, the AFM provides backup support to the Malta Police Force (MPF) and other government departments/agencies in situations as required in an organised, disciplined manner in the event of national emergencies (such as natural disasters) or internal security and bomb disposal.

On another level, the AFM establishes and/or consolidates bilateral co-operation with other countries to reach higher operational effectiveness related to AFM roles.



A census of population and housing is held every ten years. The last census was held over three weeks in November 2005 and managed to enumerate an estimated 96% of the population. A preliminary report was issued in April 2006, and results were weighted to an estimate for 100% of the population.

Native Maltese people make up the majority of the island. However there are minorities, the largest of which are British people, many of whom retired to Malta.

The resident population of Malta, which includes foreigners residing in Malta for at least a year, as of November 27, 2005 was estimated at 404,039 of whom 200,715 (49.7%) were males and 203,324 (50.3%) were females. Of these, 17.1 per cent were aged 14 and under, 68.2 per cent were within the 15–64 age bracket whilst the remaining 13.7 per cent were 65 years and over. Malta's population density of 1,282 per square kilometre (3,322/ sq mi) is by far the highest in the EU, and one of the highest in the world. The only census year showing a fall in population was that of 1967, with a 1.7% total decrease, attributable to a substantial number of Maltese residents who emigrated. The Maltese-resident population for 2004 was estimated to make up 97.0% of the total resident population.

Through all the censuses since 1842 there was always a slightly higher female-to-male ratio. Closest to reaching equality were 1901 and 1911 censuses. The highest female-to-male ratio was reached in 1957 (1088:1000), and since the ratio has been constantly dropping. The 2005 census showed a 1013:1000 female-to-male ratio.

Population growth has slowed down, from +9.5% between the 1985 and 1995 censuses, to +6.9% between the 1995 and 2005 censuses (a yearly average of +0.7%). The birth rate stood at 3860 (a decrease of 21.8% from the 1995 census) and the death rate stood at 3025. Thus, there was a natural population increase of 835 (compared to +888 for 2004, of which over a hundred were foreign residents).

The population's age composition is similar to the age structure prevalent in the EU. Since 1967 there was observed a trend indicating an aging population, and is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio rose from 17.2% in 1995 to 19.8% in 2005, reasonably lower than the EU's 24.9% average. In fact, 31.5% of the Maltese population is aged under 25 (compared to the EU's 29.1%); but the 50-64 age group constitutes 20.3% of the population, significantly higher than the EU's 17.9%. In conclusion, Malta's old-age-dependency-ratio is expected to continue rising steadily in the coming years.

Maltese legislation recognises both civil and canonical (ecclesiastical) marriages. Annulments by the ecclesial and civil courts are unrelated and are not necessarily granted. There is no divorce legislation and abortion in Malta is illegal. A person must be 18 to marry. The number of brides aged under 25 decreased from 1471 in 1997 to 766 in 2005; while the number of grooms under 25 decreased from 823 to 311. There is a constant trend that females are more likely than males to marry very young. In 2005 there were 51 brides aged between 16 and 19, compared to 8 grooms.

At the end of 2007, The population of the Maltese Islands stood at 410,290 and is expected to reach 424,028 by 2025. At the moment, females slightly outnumber males, making up 50.3 per cent of the population. The largest proportion of persons - 7.5 per cent - were aged 25-29, while there were 7.3 per cent falling into each of the 45-49 and 55-59 age brackets.


The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English. Maltese, the national language, is a Semitic language, descended from Siculo-Arabic, from Sicily and surrounding Southern Italy, with substantial borrowing from Sicilian and Italian. The Maltese alphabet of 29 letters is based on the Latin alphabet, but uses the diacritically altered letter ż, also found in Polish, ċ, ġ, as well as the letters , ħ, and ie, which are unique to Maltese.

Italian was an official language of Malta until the 1930s, and is widely spoken as a second or third language. Italian television channels from Italy-based broadcasters, such as Mediaset and RAI, reach Malta and remain popular.

In the 1995 census it was reported that 98% of the population fluently spoke Maltese, 76% English, 36% Italian, and 10% French.

As a first language, 86% of the population preferred to use Maltese, 12% English, and 2% Italian.


The Mosta Dome
The Mosta Dome

The Constitution of Malta provides for freedom of religion but establishes Roman Catholicism as the state religion. Freedom House and the World Factbook report that 98 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, making the nation one of the most Catholic countries in the world. The Sunday Mass Attendance Census 2005 commissioned by the Archdiocese of Malta reports that 52.6% of the population attends regular religious services. This is one of the highest rates of attendance in Europe.

Around 22% of the population is reported to be active in a church group, movement or community. Malta has the highest concentration of members per capita of the Neocatechumenal Way in the world, since it was introduced in the islands in 1973 by three Italian catechists, who started the first community in the Immaculate Conception Parish in Ħamrun.

The patron saints are Saint Paul, Saint Agata, Saint George and Saint George Preca, known as Dun Ġorġ - the first Maltese saint, canonised on 3 June 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI. A number of Maltese individuals are recognised as Blessed, including Maria Adeodata Pisani and Nazju Falzon, these having been beatified by the late Pope John Paul II.

Various Roman Catholic religious orders are found in Malta, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and Little Sisters of the Poor.

Most congregants at the local Protestant churches are not Maltese; many British retirees live in the country, and vacationers from many other nations compose the remainder of such congregations. There are approximately 500 Jehovah's Witnesses; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Bible Baptist Church, and the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches have about 60 affiliates. There is one Jewish congregation. Zen Buddhism and the Bahá'í Faith also have about 40 members. There is one Muslim mosque and a Muslim primary school. Of the estimated 3,000 Muslims in Malta, approximately 2,250 are foreigners, approximately 600 are naturalized citizens, and approximately 150 are native-born Maltese. There are also some churches of other denominations, such as St. Andrew's Scots Church in Valletta (a joint Presbyterian and Methodist congregation) and St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, as well as a Seventh-day Adventist church in Birkirkara.


EU nationals require neither a visa nor a passport (an ID card or an expired passport are enough) to enter the country. Citizens of a number of third countries are not required to apply for a visa and require only a valid passport when residing in Malta for up to three months. Visas for other nationalities are valid for one month.

Immigrants, even those with EU citizenship, are required to apply for a work permit. This exception to EU law was agreed upon before accession to safeguard the Maltese labour market. In practice though, all work permits to EU nationals are granted and currently this exercise is only used to monitor the labour market for any needed intervention. The safeguards negotiated in Malta's accession have never been put into effect and it is unlikely that they will.

The estimated net inflow (using data for 2002 to 2004) was of 1,913 persons yearly. Over the last 10 years, Malta accepted back a yearly average of 425 returning emigrants.

During 2006, a total of 1,800 illegal immigrants reached Malta making the boat crossing from the North Africa coast. Most of them intended to reach mainland Europe and happened to come to Malta by mistake. Given Malta's high population density, the impact of this figure on Malta is equivalent to that of an arrival of 369,000 irregular immigrants in Germany and other large EU member states. In the first half of 2006, 967 irregular immigrants arrived in Malta – almost double the 473 who arrived in the same period in 2005.

Around 45% of immigrants landed in Malta have been granted refugee (5%) or protected humanitarian status (40%). A White Paper suggesting the grant of Maltese citizenship to refugees resident in Malta for over ten years was issued in 2005. Historically Malta gave refuge (and assisted in their resettlement) to eight hundred or so East African Asians who had been expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin and to just under a thousand Iraqis fleeing Saddam Hussein's regime.

Presently the problem of illegal immigration has increased steadily, causing real or perceived strains on Malta's health, employment and social services, its internal security and public order and labour market. Detention costs for the first half of 2006 alone cost € 746,385.

In 2005, Malta sought EU aid in relation to reception of irregular immigrants, repatriation of those denied refugee status, resettlement of refugees into EU countries, and maritime security. In December 2005, the European Council adopted The Global Approach to Migration: Priority Actions focusing on Africa and the Mediterranean; but the deployment of said actions has been limited to the western Mediterranean, thus putting further pressure on the central Mediterranean route for irregular immigration of which Malta forms a part.

Political tension started developing as the EU persistently ignored Malta's precarious situation: member states party to the legally-binding Cotonou Agreement continued not to fulfill their obligations and East African countries, from which most central Mediterranean irregular immigration originates, were excluded from the Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development held 10-11 July 2006 in Tripoli).


Primary schooling has been compulsory since 1946, and secondary education was made compulsory in 1971 up to the age of sixteen. Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16 years. While the state provides education free of charge, the Church and the private sector run a number of schools in Malta and Gozo, such as St. Aloysius' College in Birkirkara. Most of the teachers' salary in Church schools is paid by the state.

Education in Malta is based on the British Model. Primary School lasts six years. At age 11 students sit for an examination to enter a Secondary School, either a Church School (the Common Entrance Examination) or a State School. Students sit for SEC O-level examinations at age 16, with passes obligatory in certain subjects such as Mathematics, English and Maltese. Students may opt to continue studying at a Sixth Form college like Junior College or De La Salle 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.

Tertiary education at diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate level is mainly provided by the University of Malta (UoM).

The adult literacy rate is 92.8%.

Languages in education

English and Maltese are both used to teach students at primary and secondary school level, and both languages are also compulsory subjects. Public schools tend to use both Maltese and English in a balanced manner. Private schools prefer to use English for teaching, as is also the case with most departments of the University of Malta; this has a limiting effect on the capacity and development of the Maltese language.

Of the total number of students studying a first foreign language at secondary level, 51% take Italian whilst 38% take French. Other choices include German, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic.


Malta has a long history of healthcare, and the first hospital recorded in the country was already functioning by 1372.

Modern-day Malta has both a public healthcare system, known as the government healthcare service, and a private healthcare system.

Malta was ranked number 5 in the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health systems, well above the USA (at 37), Australia (at 32), and Canada (at 30). Great Britain, the best of this group of larger comparator countries, was ranked at number 18, which is interesting in that the healthcare system in Malta closely resembles the British system, as healthcare is free at the point of delivery. Also, like the UK Malta has a strong general practitioner-delivered primary care base, supplemented by secondary care and tertiary care provided by a number of public hospitals, some of which (such as St. Luke's Hospital) are large (see List of hospitals in Malta).

There is both a medical school and a dental school at the University of Malta, as well as a nursing school .

Malta has three major private hospitals. These are St Philip's Hospital, with a capacity of 75 beds, in Santa Venera, and St James Capua Hospital in Sliema, with 80 beds (the former Capua Palace Hospital) - St James Hospital also has other sites, including a 13 bed unit in Zabbar, as well as a partner hospital in Libya. There is also St Mark's Clinic, with a capacity of 5 beds, based in Msida and which offers private hospital services.

In recent years, Malta has been trying to develop as a medical tourism destination . However, up to 2008 no Maltese hospitals in either the public or the private sectors had undergone independent international healthcare accreditation. Malta is popular with British medical tourists , and logically this may point Maltese hospitals towards seeking UK-sourced accreditation, such as with the Trent Accreditation Scheme, or possibly to seek dual accreditation with the American-orientated Joint Commission if they wish to compete with the Far East and Latin America for medical tourists from the USA, as well as from the UK. A number of health tourism providers are involved in developing medical tourism in Malta.

The Maltese Ministry of Health advises foreign residents to take out private medical insurance.

The Medical Association of Malta represents practitioners of the medical profession. MMSA is a separate body representing Maltese medical students, and is a member of EMSA and IFMSA. MIME, the Maltese Institute for Medical Education, is an institute set up recently to provide CME to doctors in Malta as well as medical students. MADS, the Malta Association of Dental Students, is a student association set up to promote the rights of Dental Surgery Students studying within the faculty of Dental Surgery of the University of Malta. It is affiliated with IADS, the International Association of Dental Students.

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