Malta: Country and Foreign Investment
History, Population, Language and Culture
The total population of the islands is estimated to be just over 411,000 (July 2013). The official languages are Maltese and English; Italian is also widely spoken. The civilisation is one of the oldest in the Mediterranean dating back to circa 5,000 years BC. St Paul is believed to have been shipwrecked on Malta, whose strategic position in the Mediterranean has made it an important cultural and commercial centre. The crusading order of the Knights of St John established their base in Malta, where in the 16th century they famously withstood a siege by 30,000 soldiers of Suleyman the Magnificent's Ottoman Empire. The islanders' stout defence against the Germans in the Second World War is an equally famous chapter in history, and gained the island a collective George Cross from the British.
The islands' architecture, language and culture are an intriguing and unique blend of Mediterranean and Arabic influences. The catholic religion is dominant, and a plethora of churches built from local stone, and accompanying fiestas with loud fireworks, is a marked feature of Maltese life.
After almost 150 years as a British colony, the Maltese islands declared independence in 1964. Ten years afterwards Malta became a republic within the British Commonwealth. The economy slumped after the withdrawal of the British military in 1979, and for a while local political conditions were not propitious for business development. Tourism however continued to thrive, and in the last ten years Malta has made an effort to become more business-friendly, making use of the institutions, infrastructure and public administration left behind by the British.
Malta was one of the ten countries that joined the EU in May, 2004.