CDF Advocates

THE MALTESE ISLANDS
- An Overview

Geography
The Maltese archipelago consists of three inhabited islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, having a total area of 316km2. These islands are situated in the centre of the Mediterranean sea, just 93km from the southern tip of Italy and some 290km from the North African coast. The archipelago's capital, Valletta, is situated on the main island, Malta, which island denotes the name of the archipelago.

Topography
The topography of the Maltese islands is hilly towards the north-west and low-lying towards the south east. There are no mountains or rivers yet the Maltese coastline is picturesque with many harbours, bays creeks, sandy beaches and rocky caves.

Climate
Malta enjoys a moderate Mediterranean climate characterised by warm summers and mild winters. The mean temperature during the winter months (November to April) is usually 14 C, whilst that prevailing during the summer months (May to October) averages 23 C. The average annual rainfall is approximately 550mm.

History and Culture
Malta's strategic position and its natural harbours have made it an object of contest among competing powers. The Island, which was catholicised by St. Paul some 2,000 years ago, has been occupied through the ages by many different civilisations including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French and British. This cross-fertilisation of cultures besides having imbued Malta's name in history, has aided the development of a rich cultural patrimony.

Malta is in many ways a microcosm of Mediterranean history and within the space of a few kilometres it is possible to see and visit anything from prehistoric temples to spectacular fortifications and historic towns. Exploring the Maltese countryside can also be very rewarding as Malta has many scenic spots to be enjoyed.

Government
After so many years of foreign occupation, Malta acquired its independence in 1964, when it became a parliamentary democracy. The President of the Republic of Malta, who is appointed by the House of Representatives, is the titular Head of State.

The executive power rests with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. The Prime Minister is usually the party leader commanding the greater support in the House of Representatives.

Legislative power lies in the hands of the House of Representatives which currently has sixty-five members drawn from two major political parties - Nationalist Party and the Malta Labour Party.

Elections are held every five years and the party currently in Government is the Nationalist Party.

Malta will become a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004.

The Legal System
Malta's independent judicial system is backed by many years of experience. The island's civil law is largely based on the Napoleonic Code. The criminal code is Italian in origin, but a system of trial by jury is modelled on English principles. Company and taxation law are also based on their English counterparts. All laws are published in Maltese and English.

Language
In spite of the various historical influences, Malta acquired a unique cultural identity and a language, which have survived centuries of domination. Maltese is the national language but for official and business purposes both Maltese and English are used. Besides being very fluent in both the above two languages, many Maltese can also speak one or more additional languages such as Italian, French and German.

Population
Malta, renowned for its hospitality, has a homogeneous population with no ethnic, racial, religious or linguistic problems. As at September 2000, the Maltese population amounted to 381,500 - 49.7% of whom were males and 50.3% females. The average annual population growth rate is 0.8%. Malta has a multi-lingual labour force which is very flexible and adaptable.

Time
Malta is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (G.M.T.)

Transport
Malta is easily accessible by air within a few hours from most of the major European countries. The national airline, Air Malta, currently has scheduled direct services to all major European and North African destinations including:

Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Athens, Bahrain, Barcelona, Berlin, Birmingham, Brussels, Budapest, Cairo, Casablanca, Catania, Damascus, Dubai, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Istanbul, Larnaca, Lisbon, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, Lyons, Manchester, Marseille, Milan, Monastir, Munich, Oslo, Palermo, Paris, Rome, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Vienna and Zurich.

Scheduled services are also provided by other international carriers. Destinations not reached directly from Malta are usually accessed via London, Munich, Frankfurt Zurich or Rome.

Malta is also accessible by sea. A number of carriers, including Sea Malta, provide scheduled services within a complete world-wide network. The Grand Harbour is well equipped with a number of deep water quays providing passenger, RoRo and container facilities. It is also the base for the island's ship repair and ship building industry. Besides the Grand Harbour there is also the Marsaxlokk Harbour, a Freeport which provides a wide range of services.

Communication
Overseas calls, faxes and telexes can be made from Malta to virtually all parts of the world. Direct dialling can be made to over 120 counties in Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and the Far East.

Accommodation
The Maltese islands offer varied accommodation facilities in hotels, guest houses, holiday complexes, in self-catering apartments and villas. These facilities may be found in residential, entertainment and commercial centres which, given the small size of the island, are a few minutes drive from the most important industrial estates on the island.

Medical Care
Visitors can rest assured that Malta enjoys a high standard of medical care. There are several public and private hospitals and clinics in Malta and Gozo.

Entertainment
Malta's mild climate lends itself to many outdoor sports and activities including golf, sailing, yachting, scuba-diving and windsurfing. For those who enjoy night life, Malta has many bars, restaurants, cafes and discotheques. The standard of food served in Maltese hotels and restaurants is high and visitors can enjoy continental as well as Mediterranean cuisine. For the theatre goers, various operas, concerts and plays are staged during the season. In addition, there are various places of historical interest.

Banking
Banks open from 8.30 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. or 5.00pm from Monday to Friday. Foreign exchange facilities are available at the more popular tourist areas up to 7.00 p.m. There are 24 hours foreign exchange facilities in prime areas around the island including the Airport, Valletta, Bugibba, St. Julians, Marsascala, Rabat and Victoria and Marsalforn in Gozo. Some branches have their opening hours depending on the market's day service. Banking facilities are also available through a wide network of automated teller machines.

Shopping
Shops are usually open between 9.00 a.m. and 7.00 p.m. with a three hour lunch break. Shops are not open on Sundays and Public Holidays. Valletta and Sliema are the most well known shopping areas. Major credit cards are accepted at most leading shops and restaurants.

Local and International Press
A number of local daily newspapers in Maltese and English are published. Foreign newspapers, magazines and other periodicals are also widely available.

Television and Radio
Malta television programmes feature a good number of British and American productions. Daily news bulletins are shown on TV. Numerous Italian television stations are received in Malta and there is also a Cable TV network.

Car Hire
Malta has the cheapest car hire rates in Europe and this is probably one of the most cost effective means of getting around in Malta. Driving is on the left and British or international driving licences are generally accepted.

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