Over the past few years, Malta has seen a drive by successive governments to promote the islands' development as a reputable international business, financial and maritime centre. As a result of Malta's accession to the European Union and the adoption of the Euro, and also because Malta complies with the policies and directives of international organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Malta enjoys an excellent reputation and track record and is not included in any 'black-list' of tax havens.
Malta's reputation, coupled with its:
- state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure
- support services by pro-active professionals who adopt a 'can do' attitude
- highly qualified and skilled workforce fluent in various languages (English is an official language)
- strategic geographic location
- convenient time-zone
- stable political and economic environment
- extensive double taxation treaty network and other double taxation relief mechanisms
- comparatively low running costs, rent and wages
- a mild climate
make it one of the most reliable international business, financial and maritime centres world-wide.
The Maltese Islands are an archipelago composed of five islands (three are uninhabited) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, having a total area of 316 square kilometres. The Maltese Islands are situated 93kms south of Sicily and 288kms north of Africa. Gibraltar is 1,826kms to the West and the Middle East is 1,940kms to the East. Malta's strategic location has made it an important trading post for international trade. Over the past years, the Malta Freeport has become one of the leading container transhipment ports in the Mediterranean.
Malta is the largest of the islands and its capital city, which is also the islands' cultural, administrative and main commercial centre, is Valletta.
There are no mountains, rivers or lakes in the Maltese islands. The landscape is characterised by a series of low hills with terraced fields on the slopes. The coast is mainly rocky with several harbours, marinas and creeks.
Malta's climate is warm with a prevailing north-westerly wind. Due to the islands' location, the climate is strongly influenced by the sea and is typically Mediterranean mostly sunny with an average of 300 days of sunshine each year.
Winters are generally mild with the temperature averaging 15'C. The summers, however, are hot with most days having cloudless skies. In summer, the average temperature is 32 degrees Celsius, but this is often mitigated by the cool sea breeze.
The rainy season is between September and April, with very little rain during the summer months. The annual average rainfall is 620mm. There is no snow, frost or fog in Malta.
The history of the Maltese Islands dates back 7000 years, with the first known settlers being the Phoenician Mediterranean traders. The Maltese Islands formed part of both the Roman and Byzantine Empires before being subject to Arab and, later, Norman domination. In 1530 A.D. the Maltese Islands were relinquished to the Order of St. John. The construction of several strategic fortifications to resist the Ottoman attacks began during the time the Knights were in Malta. These fortifications, together with a number of palaces built by the Knights, today form part of the islands' rich historical and cultural heritage. Following the surrender of the islands to Napoleon in 1798 A.D., a popular uprising of the Maltese population in 1800 A.D. led to the end of the French rule in Malta and, with the approval of its people, Malta became a British Crown Colony; a status which it retained until its independence in 1964. Malta became a Republic in 1974 and in May 2004 became a member of the European Union.
Maltese and English are the two official languages in Malta. Most business correspondence, commerce and trade is conducted in English, since most people speak it very fluently. Fluency in other languages, particularly Italian, French, German, Spanish and Arabic, is widespread. Maltese is one of the official languages of the European Union. Although Maltese, the native language, is of Semitic origin, it also contains various words which have been imported from foreign languages through the ages.
The population of the Maltese Islands currently stands at approximately 417,617 (Demographic Review 2010, NSO) and increases by approximately 0.4% each year. The Maltese are renowned for their sense of hospitality and are considered by many as friendly, peace-loving people.
The great majority of the Maltese profess the Roman Catholic faith. Church services are mostly conducted in Maltese but services in other languages, particularly English, Italian, French, German and Greek are also held.
Other religious denominations have places of worship in Malta and there is general acceptance and tolerance of other religious denominations.
Malta adopted the euro on the 1st of January 2008.
Government and Political System
Malta has a parliamentary democracy. The Head of State is the President of the Republic with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet having executive powers. Legislative powers are vested in the House of Representatives which is composed of 65 members elected from the two major political parties. Elections are held every 5 years. The judiciary is impartial and independent from the government. The requisites for fair judicial proceedings and due process are in place through the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights which forms part of Maltese law.
Malta has a written Constitution which prevails over any other law. International conventions are either ratified by the House of Representatives or by an enabling law passed by Parliament which enacts into Maltese law the rights and obligations arising from such conventions. Following Malta's accession to the European Union, EU Regulations are directly applicable in Malta, whereas EU Directives must be transposed into Maltese law.
Although Maltese law is based on the civil law system, it has been strongly influenced by other legal systems, particularly English Common Law and, more recently, European Union legislation. In fact, whilst Maltese civil law is largely based on Roman law principles, fiscal law, company law, shipping and maritime law and most fields of commercial law are heavily influenced by English law. Financial services legislation in Malta is principally based on European Union legislation.
Maltese legislation is composed of primary legislation and secondary legislation. Primary legislation is enacted by Parliament, whereas secondary legislation is issued by Ministers by virtue of the power granted to them by the primary legislation. Such subsidiary legislation is published in the Official Government Gazette and tabled in Parliament.
Although judicial precedent is not binding in Malta, the judiciary refers to case-law and doctrine to assist it in its interpretation and application of the law.