Official Name Republic of Malta
Capital City Valletta
Languages Maltese (official), English (official)
Official Currency Maltese Lira
Religions Catholic, others
Population 402,000 (2003 est.)
Land Area 320 sq km (124 sq miles) The Republic of Malta is a small and densely-populated island nation in southern Europe. It consists of an archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea directly south of Italy and north of Libya. These strategically-located islands have been ruled and fought over by various powers over the centuries.
Economy: 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.
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. Malta and Tunisia are currently discussing the commercial exploitation of the continental shelf between their countries, particularly for petroleum exploration.
Tourism: Malta has many museums, shops, beaches, and leisure activities in a densely-packed area. It is a well-known popular vacation destination among Europeans. Although Malta is now a member of the European Union, it is not a member of the Schengen Treaty yet. It is currently adopting Schengen regulations with the goal to be finished by 2007.
Demographics: Malta is one of the most densely-populated countries in the world, with about 1,250 inhabitants per square kilometre. The population is primarily comprised of the descendants of Italian, French, Spanish, and British. Most of the foreign community in Malta consists of British nationals, a group centered around Sliema and the surrounding suburbs. Roman Catholicism is the official state religion of Malta. However, full liberty of conscience and freedom of worship is guaranteed, and a number of faiths have places of worship on the islands. An estimated 90% of the population are Roman Catholic, though only 60% practise the religion. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English, but Italian is also widely understood