Malta country profile
- 17 March 2016
- From the section Europe
The Maltese archipelago includes the islands of Malta, Gozo, Comino, Comminotto and Filfla.
It has a history of colonial control spanning centuries.
Located south of the Italian island of Sicily between Europe and North Africa, it has been occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and latterly France and Britain.
Independence from Britain was achieved in 1964, after the Maltese people were awarded the George Cross for defending the island during the Second World War.
Over the centuries, Malta's strategic position fostered its development as an important trading post and it remains a leading centre for container and freight transhipment.
Malta is a popular holiday destination and tourism is the nation's main source of income.
President: Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca was elected Malta's ninth president in April 2014 with the unanimous approval of parliament.
She is the country's youngest serving president and the second woman to hold the post.
Before becoming head of state she was minister of the family and social solidarity. She has been active in national politics for the past forty years and was general secretary of the Malta Labour Party from 1982 until 1991.
Prime Minister: Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat became premier in March 2013 after his Labour Party won a national election, returning to power after 15 years in opposition.
Labour was previously in government between 1996 and 1998.
Mr Muscat was aged 39 when he took office.
At the age of 21 he was appointed to the national executive of the Labour Party. He has worked on the party's radio and TV stations and on the party's online newspaper "Malta Star".
Many of Malta's newspapers and broadcasters have strong political affiliations. Dailies and weeklies appear in Maltese and English.
Maltese radio began in the mid-1930s, partly to counter Fascist propaganda broadcasts from Italy.
Some key dates in Malta's history:
1814 - Malta becomes a crown colony of the British Empire.
1939-1945 - Malta suffers heavy bombing by German and Italian air forces targeting Allied bases.
1964 - Full independence.
1974 - Malta becomes republic.
2004 - Joins the European Union.
2008 - Malta adopts the euro.