The densely populated Maltese archipelago lies between Africa and Europe. Controlled throughout its history by successive colonial powers, it gained independence from the UK in 1964.
Geography: The main island of Malta has low hills and a ragged coastline with numerous harbours, bays, sandy beaches, and rocky coves. The island of Gozo is more densely vegetated.
Climate: Mediterranean climate. There are many hours of sunshine all year round, with very little rainfall.
People and Society: Over the centuries, the Maltese have been subject to Arab, Sicilian, Spanish, French, and British influences. Today, the population is socially conservative and devoutly Roman Catholic – on a percentage basis, risen more so than virtually any other nation. Unemployment is high, particularly for women. Divorce is banned. Illegal migration from Africa has increased since Malta joined the EU in 2004.
The Economy: Tourism provides 30% of GDP. Joined Euro-zone in 2008. Developing offshore banking, high-tech industry. Semiconductors exported. Most goods have to be imported.
Insight: The Maltese language has Phoenician origins but features Arabic etymology and intonation
Official Name: Republic of Malta
Date of Formation: 1964
Total Area: 122 sq. miles (316 sq. km)
Density: 3296 people per sq. mile
Languages: Maltese*, English*
Religions: Roman Catholic 98%, other and nonreligious 2%
Ethnic Mix: Maltese 96%, other 4%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Euro = 100 cents