Definitions

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Malta

[mawl-tuh]

Malta , officially the Republic of Malta (Repubblika ta' Malta), is a European microstate, comprising an archipelago of three islands. It is located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily, giving the country a warm Mediterranean climate. The nation's capital city is Valletta.

Throughout much of its history, Malta was considered to have a crucial strategic location due to its position in the Mediterranean Sea. It was held by several ancient cultures including Phoenicians, Sicilians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and others. The island is commonly associated with the Knights Hospitaller, who ruled it from the mid 16th century. This, along with the historic Biblical shipwreck of St. Paul on the island, contributed to the strong Roman Catholic legacy. Catholicism is still the official and most practiced religion in Malta today.

The country's official languages are Maltese and English, although there are strong historical ties to Italian on the islands. Malta gained independence from Britain in 1964 and is currently a member of the European Union, which it joined in 2004. It also belongs to the Commonwealth of Nations and the UN.

Etymology

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 BCE, but the island is presumed to have been later dominated by the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire from 395 to 870. Another etymology given is the Phoenician word Maleth meaning "a haven, in reference to Malta's many bays and coves.

History

Ancient civilizations

The Maltese islands were first settled ca. 5200 BCE by stone age farmers who had arrived from the nearby larger island of Sicily. About 3500 BCE 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 BCE, 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 route explorations from the east Mediterranean Sea across to Cornwall.

After the fall of Phoenicia, the area came under the control of people from a former Phoenician colony in 400 BCE; the Carthaginians. During this time Malta was mainly used as a place to cultivate olives, carobs and produce textiles. During 218 BCE in the Punic Wars tensions arose and the Maltese people rebelled against the rule of Carthage, turning over control of their garrison to Roman Republic consul Sempronius. During the Syracusan revolt Malta remained loyal to Rome and was rewarded accordingly with the title Foederata Civitas; a designation which meant a level of autonomy within the jurisdiction of Sicilia province while being allied to Rome. The island known then as Melita had its capital located in the centre, this carried the same name, though today it is known as Mdina.

In 117 BCE the Maltese Islands were thriving as part of the Roman Empire and were promoted to the level of Municipium under Hadrian. During 60 AD in the north of the island at Saint Paul's Bay, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ named Saint Paul was shipwrecked on the shores. Tradition holds he stayed in Malta for three months introducing Christianity and performing various miracles. This is documented in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles. When the Roman Empire split into the east and west divisions, Malta fell under the control of the Greek speaking Byzantine Empire which was ruled from Constantinople. Although Malta was under Byzantine rule for four centuries, not a lot is known about this period. There is evidence that Germanic tribes the Goths and the Vandals briefly took control of the islands before the Byzantines launched a counter attack and retook Malta, keeping a military presence there.

Middle Ages

Malta was involved in the Byzantine-Arab Wars, and the conquest of Malta is closely linked with that of Sicily due to admiral Euphemius betraying his fellow Byzantines and asking the Aghlabid dynasty to invade the area. As part of the Emirate of Sicily rule switched to the Fatimids in 909. The Arabs introduced new irrigation, some fruits and cotton, as well as from the island of Sicily the Siculo-Arabic language which would eventually become Maltese. The native Christians were allowed freedom of religion but had to pay an extra tax to their rulers. After the Normans from the Duchy of Normandy had seized Sicily, they did the same on the Maltese Islands by 1091. Roger I of Sicily was according to Maltese tradition warmly welcomed by the native Christians. The Maltese offered to fight for him and Roger reportedly tore off a portion of his flag, half-red, half-white presenting it to the Maltese to fight under; the basis of the flag of Malta.

The Norman period was productive; Malta became part of the newly formed Kingdom of Sicily which also covered the island of Sicily and the southern half of the Italian Peninsula. The Catholic Church was re-instated as the state religion, with Malta under the See of Palermo and much Norman architecture sprung up around Malta. Tancred of Sicily the last Norman monarch made Malta and Gozo a feudal lordship or fief within the kingdom with a Count of Malta instated. As the islands were much desired due to their strategic importance, during this time the men of Malta were militarised to fend off capture attempts; the early counts were skilled Genoese corsairs. The kingdom passed on to the Hohenstaufens from 1194 until 1266. It was under Frederick I that any remaining Muslims were expelled from Malta in 1224 and the entire Christian male population of Celano in Abruzzo was exported to Malta.

For a brief period the kingdom passed onto the Capetian House of Anjou, however high taxes made the dynasty unpopular in Malta, due to Charles of Anjou's war against the Republic of Genoa the island of Gozo was sacked in 1275. Following this there was a large revolt on Sicily known as the Sicilian Vespers, this saw the Peninsula part of the kingdom separating into the Kingdom of Naples; the Kingdom of Sicily including Malta instead fell under the rule of the Aragonese. The kingdom was ruled by relatives of the kings of Aragon until 1409 and then as part of the Crown of Aragon. Early on in the Aragonese reign, the Count of Malta title was given to sons of the monarchy; it was also during this time that much of the Maltese nobility sprung up. By 1397 however, the Count title was back to a feudal basis with two families fighting over it causing the Maltese distress, thus the king confiscated it. This was a familiar theme when the title was reinstated a few years later, the Maltese led by the nobility rose up against Count Gonsalvo Monroy. However, the Maltese voiced that they were loyal to the Sicilian Crown, which impressed Alfonso IV greatly who did not punish the people for their rebellion but instead promised never to grant it to a third party, incorporating it back into the crown. The city of Mdina was nicknamed Città Notabile as a result.

Knights of Malta and Napoleon

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.

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 Protectorate, 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.

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.

Independence

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 June to 22 June 2007 it joined the Eurozone on January 1, 2008.

Politics and government

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.

Until World War II Maltese politics was dominated by the language question fought out by pro-Italian and pro-British parties. Post-War politics dealt with constitutional questions on the relations with Britain (first with Integration then Independence) and, eventually, relations with the European Union.

Local councils

Since 1993 Malta has been subdivided into sixty-eight local councils. These form the most basic form of local government. There are no intermediate levels between local government and national government. A list is below (click show):

Geography

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.

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.

Islands

The main islands, and the only two inhabited ones, of the country are Malta Island and Gozo. Other islands that form part of the archipelago include: Comino (Kemmuna), Cominotto (Kemmunett, uninhabited), Filfla (uninhabited), Fungus Rock (Il-Ġebla tal-Ġeneral, uninhabited), Manoel Island (which is joined to the town of Gżira, on the mainland by a bridge), and the Islands of St. Paul (uninhabited). The Maltese Islands have been an independent republic since 1974. The centre of government, commerce and culture is the capital city of Valletta, on the eastern coast of Malta.

The islands in Malta are:

Climate

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 , and the highest temperature was recorded in August 1999 at Luqa International Airport. An unofficial lowest temperature of 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 on 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 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) 32 (86) 38 (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

Economy

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.

Numismatics

In Malta the euro was introduced in 2008. Three different designs were selected for the Maltese coins. In this short period, Malta also produced collectors' coins, with face value ranging from 10 to 50 euro. These coins are a legacy of an old national practice of minting of silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone. For instance, a €10 Maltese commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.

Military

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.

Demographics

Population

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 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.

Languages

The official languages of Malta are Maltese and English, both of which are spoken by the population. Maltese, which is constitutionally the national language, is genetically a Semitic language, descended from Sicilian Arabic (from southern Italy), with substantial borrowing from Sicilian, Italian, a little French, and more recently, and increasingly, English.

The Maltese language(Il-Malti) is the mothertongue language of the Maltese people.

The Maltese alphabet consists of 30 letters based on the Latin alphabet, but uses the diacritically altered letter ż (found in Polish), ċ and ġ (comparable to Esperanto ĉ and ĝ), as well as the letters , ħ, and ie, which are unique to Maltese.

Italian was the official language of Malta until the 1930s, when it was replaced by English and Maltese. The language still maintains strong ties to the country, and is spoken by the majority of the population as a second language today. Italian television channels from Italy-based broadcasters, such as Mediaset and RAI, reach Malta and remain popular.

The Eurobarometer states that 100% of the population speaks Maltese, 88% speaks English, 66% speaks Italian, and 17% speaks French, rendering the country one of the most pan-linguistically fluent in the European Union. However, public opinion on what language they "preferred" to use was different, with 86% of the population having preference for Maltese, 12% for English, and 2% Italian.

See also: Languages in education section (below)

Religion

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 patron saints are Saint Paul, Saint Agata and Saint George. Although not declared officially as a patron saint, St.George Preca (San Gorg Preca) is greatly revered as the first canonised Maltese saint. He was canonised in 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 Pope John Paul II in 2001.

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.

Migration

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.

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. 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.

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.

Education

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, Saint Aloysius' and 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. Most university courses are in English.

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.

Healthcare

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). The United Kingdom, 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.

Architecture

Malta has a long history of architecture, influenced by many different mediterranean cultures over its history, and most recently, British architecture. The first settlers on the island constructed Ġgantija, the oldest manmade freestanding structure in the world. Malta is currently undergoing a large scale mass building project, which include constructions such as SmartCity Malta, the M-Towers, and Pendergardens, while areas like the Valletta Waterfront and Tigne Point are being rerenovated.

Culture

The culture of Malta is a reflection of various cultures that have come into contact with the Maltese Islands throughout the centuries, including neighbouring Mediterranean cultures, and the cultures of the nations that ruled Malta for long periods of time prior to its independence in 1964.

Cuisine

Maltese cuisine is the result of a long relationship between the Islanders and the many foreigners who dominated Malta over the centuries. This marriage of tastes has given Malta a disctinctive cuisine that is decidedly Mediterranean in character. While many dishes are native to the island, some popular Maltese recipes show Sicilian, Southern Italian or Turkish culinary influences. Popular local dishes include ftira biż-żejt, ġbejniet, pastizzi and Ross il-Forn

Media

There is not as great a presence of the institutionschurch, political parties, trade unions - in the print media as in the broadcasting media; moreover they are absent from the ownership of the newspapers published in English. Trade Unions are not represented in the broadcasting media, but are in the print media, and only the General Workers Union owns a newspaper. The UHM, the second biggest union, has no newspaper, TV, or radio stations.

Broadcasting

There are 5 major nationwide television channels in Malta: TVM, One Television, NET Television, Smash Television and Family TV - currently transmitted by analogue terrestrial, free-to-air signals. The state and political parties subsidies most of the fundings of these television stations. The Public Broadcasting Services is the state-owned station and is a member of the EBU. Media Link Communications Ltd and One Productions Ltd are affiliated with the Nationalist Party and Malta Labour Party respectively. Smash Communications Ltd is privately owned. The Broadcasting Authority supervises all local broadcasting stations and ensures their compliance with legal and licence obligations as well as the preservation of due impartiality; in respect of matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy; while fairly apportioning broadcasting facilities and time between persons belong to different political parties. The Broadcasting Authority ensures that local broadcasting services consist of public, private and community broadcasts that offer varied and comprehensive programming to cater for all interests and tastes.

The only commercial TV station attracts an audience of 2%. Cable, terrestrial and satellite reception are all available, though the cable service is the most diffused. Cable subscriptions reached almost 124,000 in February 2006 reaching about 80% of Maltese households

Print

The most widely read and financially the strongest newspapers are published by Allied Newspapers Ltd., mainly the The Times (27%) and The Sunday Times (51.6%). Due to bilingualism half of the newspapers are published in English and the other half in Maltese. The Sunday newspaper It-Torċa (The Torch) published by the Union Press, a subsidiary of the GWU, is the paper with the biggest circulation in the Maltese language. Its sister paper, L-Orizzont, is the Maltese daily with biggest circulation. Newspapers are definitively losing out to radio and television (and radio is losing to television) as preferred source of news. There is a high number of daily or weekly newspapers, there is one paper for every 28,000 people. Advertising, sales and subsidies are the three main methods of financing newspapers and magazines. However, most of the papers and magazines tied to institutions are subsidised by the same institutions, they depend on advertising or subsidies from their owners.

Music

While Maltese music today is largely western, traditional Maltese music includes what is known as għana. This consists of background folk guitar music, while a few people, generally men, take it in turns to argue a point in a singsong voice. The aim of the lyrics, which are improvised, are to create a friendly yet challenging atmosphere, and it takes a number of years of practice to be able to combine the required artistic qualities with the ability to debate effectively.

Sports

Malta has its own national football stadium. It is generally noted that the population tends to be split half and half with regards to supporting Italy or England in sports games, due to the cultural affinities of the island.

Special activities

Boċċi is the Maltese version of the Italian game of Bocce, French Pétanque and British Bowls. Other than certain differences in rules and the ground on which the game is played, one of the most obvious differences between Maltese Boċċi and foreign equivalents is the shape of the bowls themselves which tend to be cylindrical rather than spherical in shape. Many small clubs (usually called "Bocci Klabbs" or "Klabbs tal-Bocci") can be found in many Maltese localities and are usually well-frequented (particularly by elderly men) and are quite active on the local and European level.

In the last decade the aviation sport of Microlight Flying has been introduced on the island by the Island Microlight ClubIn under ten years there are a total number of twenty two microlight aircraft that operate out of the Malta International Airport.

Other

See also

Notes and citations

References

External links

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