Population: 396,851 (July 2004).
Religions: Roman Catholic 98%.
Ethnic groups: Maltese (descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians, with strong elements of Italian and other Mediterranean stock).
Languages: Maltese (official), English (official).
Nationality: Maltese (singular and plural).
Country name: Republic of Malta (local: Repubblika ta' Malta).
Government type: Republic.
Independence: 21 September 1964 (from UK).
Terrain: mostly low, rocky, flat to dissected plains; many coastal cliffs.
Total area: 316 km˛. The country comprises an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited; numerous bays provide good harbors.
Coastline: 196.8 km (does not include 56.01 km for the island of Gozo).
Highest point: Ta'Dmejrek 253 m (near Dingli).
Climate: Mediterranean with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers.
Ports and harbors: Marsaxlokk, Valletta.
Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in 1814. The island staunchly supported the UK through both World Wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964. A decade later Malta became a republic.
Since about the mid-1980s, the island has transformed itself into a freight transshipment point, a financial center, and a tourist destination. Malta became an EU member in May of 2004.
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Major resources are limestone, a favorable geographic location, and a productive labor force. Malta produces only about 20% of its food needs, has limited fresh water supplies, and has no domestic energy sources. The economy is dependent on foreign trade, manufacturing (especially electronics and textiles), and tourism. Malta is privatizing state-controlled firms and liberalizing markets in order to prepare for membership in the European Union. The island remains divided politically, however, over the question of joining the EU. Continued sluggishness in the global economy is holding back exports, tourism, and overall growth.
Currency: Maltese lira (MTL).
Industries: tourism; electronics, ship building and repair, construction; food and beverages, textiles, footwear, clothing, tobacco.