The Maltese archipelago consists of three main islands: Malta where the capital Valletta and the main ports and only airport are situated, Gozo and Commino. The estimated total population of Malta and Gozo at the end of 2019 stood at 514,564, an increase of four per cent when compared to 2018 (NSO, Population Statistics, 2020). Gozo’s population stood at just over 33,000, while Commino was uninhabited except for tourists (NSO, Regional Statistics, 2020). In 2019, the total number of non-Maltese nationals (EU and third country) was estimated at 83,267 (16.2% of the total population). The origin of employed foreign nationals in Malta and Gozo at the end of 2019 before economic slowdown generated by COVID-19, shows that 67.2% come from Europe, 24.5% from Asia, 5.8% from Africa and the remaining 2.4% from the Americas and Australia (Jobs Plus, 2020) (See Statistical Table below)


The national language, Maltese, is of Semitic origin descended from Siculo-Arabic brought to the islands by settlers from neighbouring Sicily after it fell under Arab rule. The Maltese share genetic ancestry with their northern neighbours and less so with their southern ones or those of the Levant. English and Italian are widely spoken on the island.


Malta is situated at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 93km south of Sicily, and approximately 288 nautical miles North of Tripoli, Libya, 1,189 nautical miles from the Egyptian Port Said at the head of the Suez Canal in the East and 1,144 nautical miles from Gibraltar in the West. The Maltese islands have a surface area of 316 km2 and a population density of 1,628 per km2 . The Maltese islands are the southernmost point of the EU in the Mediterranean.

A History

Norman Davies wrote [Europe: A History (1997) Oxford University Press, page 78] wrote, “the islands of Malta present two historic puzzles – their language and their megaliths. The former is Semitic, of mediaeval Arab provenance. It is the only Semitic language to be written in Latin script. (Romantic philologists once linked it with ancient Phoenician). The megaliths are far older. The principal sites at the temple of Ggantija on Gozo island, and at the unique subterranean hypogeum or ‘collective burial chamber’ at Hal-Saflieni, dating from c.2400 BC. The earliest rock-cut monuments were constructed a millennium before.

The procession of civilizations through Malta reads like a shorthand guide to European history. After the Neolithic cave-dwellers, who built the megaliths, and the Bronze Age Beaker Folk, came the Carthaginians (from the seventh century BC) and the Romans (from 218 BC). Gozo is often identified as ‘Calypso isle’, where Odysseus was stranded. St Paul was shipwrecked in a bay named after him, north of Valletta, in 60 AD. Allocated to the Eastern (Byzantine)Empire in 395 AD, Malta was then ruled successively by Arabs (from 870), by Normans (from 1091), by the Knights Hospitallers (from 1530), by the French (from 1798), by the British (from 1802) – and from 1964, belatedly, by the Maltese themselves.”

In 1556, Malta withstood a four-month Ottoman siege, a historic event which is commemorated to this day. Two hundred years later Voltaire remarked “rien n’est plus connu que la siège de Malte.” The French historian Fernand Bruadel wrote: “At the risk of lapsing into sensationalism, I am tempted to say that Malta, or rather the sudden arrival in Malta of the Turkish fleet in May 1565, hit Europe like a hurricane.” Braudel went on to describe the consequences of the defeat suffered by the Ottomans in Malta as “one of the great events of the century” [Fernand Braudel (1995), The Mediterranean, University of California Press, pages 1014-1020].

Malta also endured a second epic siege during World War II when more than 15,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped on the islands by the Axis powers in 3,343 air raids. Thousands of civilians and military personnel were killed or wounded, while most towns and villages particularly in the harbour area were turned into rubble. The islands had to be supplied by sea using merchant ships guarded by flotillas of battle ships to shield them from heavy aerial attacks from land bases. They entered the Mediterranean through the straits of Gibraltar before proceeding on their way to Malta. Despite the huge losses in lives and ships, enough amounts of military supplies, food and fuel managed to trickle in and just about kept the civilian population alive and the defence efforts going. For the courage shown by its people, Malta was awarded the George Cross, but for generations after, peace and the avoidance of war became one of the most cherished values of the people.

Political System

Malta’s constitutional history dates back to the nineteenth century, but the political system is based on the 1964 Independence Constitution which has been amended several times by the two political parties represented in parliament.

These parties are the Partit Laburista (PL, former Malta Labour Party) which was founded in 1921 and the Partit Nazzjonalista (PN), which emerged in 1880. Since 1966, these two parties have been the only ones to win parliamentary seats, except in 2017 when the newly formed Partit Demokratiku (PD) elected two MPs who now sit in parliament as independent members. The legislature consists of a unicameral parliament of 65 members (MPs), which however can be increased by a few seats to ensure more proportionality between parliamentary seats and votes obtained by the political parties. Currently it consists of 67 MPs – 36 from the governing PL, 28 from the PN, 2 Independent Democrats and 1 independent Labour, a former PL minister.

The electoral system is proportional representation one based on the Single Transferable Vote (STV). STV was used for the first time in the 1921 elections to the first Maltese parliament. In national elections, which take place every five years, Malta is divided into 13 electoral districts of roughly equal size, each electing five MPs (the thirteenth district being Gozo). For the European elections to fill the six European Parliamentary seats, the islands become a single electoral district, but STV is retained. STV is also used in the local council elections, which take place every five years. First established in 1993, there are 68 local councils, which also appoint the five Maltese members of the EU’s Committee of the Regions (COR)

Head of State

The Head of State, the President of Malta, is elected by Parliament for a period of five years. The current President in office is Dr George Vella who began his term of office in 2019.

The Executive

The party that wins a majority of seats in parliament in a national election forms the government. The Constitution stipulates that, “Wherever there shall be occasion for the appointment of a Prime Minister, the President shall appoint as Prime Minister the member of the House of Representatives who, in his judgment, is best able to command the support of a majority of the members of that House and shall, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint the other Ministers from among the members of the House of Representatives.” The Prime Minister appoints the ministers and can dismiss them or change their ministerial portfolios in a ‘cabinet reshuffle’. He can also ask the President to dissolve Parliament at any time and call an early election. The present Prime Minister is Dr Robert Abela, leader of the LP.

The Judiciary

The Maltese Judiciary consists of Judges and Magistrates who sit in the Superior and Inferior Courts. In the performance of their duties, they have to comply fully with the Code of Ethics for Members of the Judiciary. Judges sit on the Superior Courts, made up of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeal, the Criminal Court and the Civil Court. The Inferior Courts are the Court of Magistrates (Malta) and the Court of Magistrates (Gozo). The latter court has both a superior and an inferior jurisdiction. The Judiciary enjoys independence from political interference in the execution of its duties. (

Basic Economic Data






GDP growth (%, yoy)

4, 1
7, 1
3, 1
6, 1

Inflation (%, yoy)

1, 1
0, 1
1, 1
1, 1

Unemployment (%)

3, 1
5, 1
4, 1
4, 1

Public budget balance (% of GDP)

0, 1
-9, 1
-6, 1
-3, 1

Gross public debt (% of GDP)

42, 1
55, 1
60, 1
59, 1

Current account balance (% of GDP)

4, 1
0, 1
0, 1
1, 1

Basic Economic Data

GDP in 2019= 13.4 Bilion euros


GDP per capita in PPS = 99 (EU = 100)


Source: Eurostat/European Commission