Malte Malta

  • Accession to the EU: 2004
  • Accession to the Council of Europe: 1965
  • Surface area: 316 km2 for the 3 islands (Malte, Gozo, Comino)
  • Population: 425 384 inhabitants (2014)
  • Capital city: Valletta (6,315 inhabitants)
  • Official languages: Maltese and English
  • Listen to Maltese
  • Main religion: Catholic
  • Currency: Euro (since January 2008)
  • Political system: Republic
  • Head of state: Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca (since 2014)
  • Head of government: Joseph Muscat (since 2013, Labour Party)
  • International code: +356
  • National holiday: September 21
  • The Maltese members of the European Parliament


OT Malte
As a strategic crossroads between Europe and Africa, located in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta was occupied by the British in 1799 and officially became a colony of the British Empire in 1814.
  • 1849 A constitution is introduced by the colonial authorities, establishing the Anglo-Saxon parliamentary system, which gradually leads to Maltese self-government. This experience of power leads to the emergence of the two main current political parties: the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party.
  • 1962 A majority of electors votes for pro-independence parties, and a conference for independence gets underway.
  • 1964 Following a referendum, independence is granted by Great Britain. Malta becomes a Constitutional Monarchy.
  • 1974 The constitution is partially amended and Malta becomes a Republic. The first President is Anthony Mamo.
  • 1979 The last British forces leave the island and Malta reaffirms its status as an independent and neutral State, refusing all foreign interference.
  • 1990 Malta requests to join the European Economic Community, at the initiative of the Nationalist Party (center-right, pro-European), which was in power at the time.
  • 1996 The Labour Party comes to power and decides to freeze the pre-membership phase.
  • 1998 The Nationalist Party wins new elections and reactivates the application to join the European Union.
  • 2000 The European Union opens negotiations with Malta.
  • 2003 The Nationalist Party is re-elected.
  • 2004 Malta joins the European Union.
  • 2008 Adoption of the Euro.
  • 2008 The national party wins the legislative elections. Lawrence Gonzi rests as Prime Minister.
  • 2009 George Abela becomes Head of state.


La Valette
Ot Malte
The capital of Malta, Valletta is located on a rocky spur running along the northeastern coast of the main island. With only 7,100 inhabitants, it is not the most populous town in the archipelago. However, the history of Malta is closely tied with that of Valletta. The town was founded in 1565 by one of the Grand Masters of the Order of Malta, Jean Parisot de La Valette, with the aim of strengthening the island’s defences against the increasingly threatening influence of Islam in the Mediterranean. However, there was no question of him building an austere fortress. The town he created was one built “for gentlemen by gentlemen”, and the fortress rapidly became one of the most attractive baroque cities in Southern Europe. Largely preserved, Valletta has a wealth of monuments including the Palace of the Grand Masters, the Saint John’s Cathedral, and the superb “knight’s hospital”: the Sacra Infirmeria. Valletta is a major cultural center, as shown by its Manoel Theatre, dating from the time of the knights and by its many museums. Festivals are regularly held here, such as the Maltafest summer festival devoted to art.


OT Maltes
Upon discovering Malta in 1785, the archaeologist Brochtorff supposedly said that it was Malta which best justifies the expression “a faith to move mountains”. Indeed, Malta and Gozo boast around 30 spectacular megalithic sites. These temples are believed to have been built between 5,000 and 2,000 BC, in other words, well before the Egyptian pyramids of Gizeh (around 2,800 BC). These rank among the first stone temples built in the world. The stones often weigh several tons, and some of them measure 6 metres in height. The Hypogeum (troglodytic temple) of Hal Saflieni is one of the most amazing prehistoric buildings in the world: its rooms are located 12 meters below the ground and the archaeologists have discovered numerous human remains there, in addition to stone altars and a statue of a goddess, proving that this was at once a collective burial site and place of worship. We know very little about the people who built these temples, other than that they came from Sicily, and that they used rudimentary implements including sharpened flints and wooden tools. Each of these construction projects must have taken them several decades!

The Order of Malta

The order of Malta
OT Malte
The Order of Malta was derived from the monastic Order of the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem, founded during the first crusade in 1113 in order to care for pilgrims. The hospitallers’ mission was widened to include the protection of western Christians threatened by Muslims. Knights from all over Christian Europe were engaged in the struggle. They wore a white uniform decorated with the famous cross, which would go on to become the Maltese cross, the universally recognised symbol of the order. The flag of Malta, (red and white embellished with a cross) would be the oldest in the world. From 1530 onwards, the date on which Charles the Fifth gave the island to the knights, the order set up its headquarters in Malta and afterwards bore the name, the Order of Malta. The knights defended the West against the Ottoman Turks, who they fended off during the siege of Valletta in 1565. For two centuries, the order’s fleet protected Christian traders in the Mediterranean. The order also carried out impressive construction work on the island, including palaces, fortifications, etc, and succeeded in turning Malta into a key crossroads for Mediterranean trade until the 18th century. The order remained in Malta until the island was taken by Bonaparte in 1798. It subsequently relocated to Rome, and today has approximately 11,500 knights and more than one million associated members. It still carries out various activities, including hospital and ambulance services.

Did you know?

Ulysses and the island of Gozo
The island of Gozo
OT Malte
According to Homer’s Odyssey, it was on the island of Gozo that the Greek hero Ulysses was held for seven years by the nymph Calypso.
Driving on the left
In Malta, cars drive on the left side of the road (thanks to its British heritage), and speeds are limited to 80 km/h on the roads and 40 km/h in the towns.
The game of chess
In the Maltese version of the game of chess, the Queen does not wear a crown.
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