Malta is the largest island from a group of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Only the three largest islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited. The terrain is low and rocky with coastal cliffs.
The Maltese archipelago is situated 93 km south of Sicily and 288 km north-east of Tunisia, with Gibraltar 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria 1,510 km to the east with a total population of 400,000 inhabitants over an area of 316sq km and a coastline of 196.8km (not including 56.01 km for the island of Gozo). This makes it one of Europe’ssmallest and one of Europe’s most densely populated countries.
This country is a melting pot of civilisations with a history stretching back thousands of years, and it has been inhabited since around 5200 BC. A significant prehistoric civilisation existed on the islands prior to the arrival of the Phoenicians who named the main island Malat, meaning safe haven. Later the islands were for centuries the seat of the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John and then part of the British Empire. Malta became independent in 1964.
The national language is Maltese, which is part of the Semitic language family that includes Arabic. English is also recognised as an official language, and many Maltese also speak Italian fluently.
Malta has a typical Mediterranean climate. The summers are hot, dry, and very sunny whilst the winters are mild and a little rainy. During May to October temperatures average around 32°C (90F) with around 10-11 hours of sunshine average per day. Between November and April temperatures average around 14°C (57F) but still with an average of 6.5 hours of sunshine each day. Annual rainfall in Malta is low, averaging 578mm a year, and during the summer months there can be very long dry spells without a drop of rain. Swimming is possible all year round (for the hardier people) with the sea temperature rarely dropping below 15°C (59F) and reaching as high as 26°C (79F).
Malta became an EU member state on the 1st May, 2004, and it is well placed to reap the benefits of EU accession. For this reason, it has recently embarked on a path of rapid growth. The island’s human capital and geographical location place it in a favourable position in this regard. At present Malta is working on an advanced system of e-government aimed at creating the first e-government state supported by a fully digital telecommunications network. Corporate law in Malta is in full conformity with European requirements; accounting and auditing standards are based on International Accounting Standards.
In June 2000, Malta was amongst a group of six offshore tax haven countries, which agreed to revise banking practices in line with OECD guidelines. Law of commerce has civil law foundations, but is also closely related to the UK model. The jurisdiction has high anti-money laundering standards and a comprehensive framework for financial services regulated by the Malta Financial Services Authority. There are also strong professional secrecy and confidentially laws.