Consisting of a group of islands located in the Mediterranean Sea, 3 of which are inhabitable, Malta is one of the smallest countries worldwide and the smallest in the European Union. Comprising only around 300 square kilometers, Malta is also among the European countries with the lowest population. Less than half a million people are living in Malta, the vast majority in the capital of the state, Valetta. With almost the whole population living in cities, Malta is amid the most urbanized countries globally.
Located in the Mediterranean Sea, Malta’s geographical position has been of strategic importance for many parties throughout history and has served as a base for seafaring nations like the Greeks, the Phoenicians, and the Romans. It was also under British rule once and gained its independence from the United Kingdom in September 1964. 60 years later it became a member of the European Union as well as the Schengen Area. After being part of the Union for 13 years, Malta held the presidency of the Council of EU for the first time in 2017. The official languages of the state are Maltese and English.
While the majority of the EU member states were affected by the 2008-2009 economic crisis, the fiscal situation in Malta did not take such a severe hit. Gross domestic product growth slumped to -2.5 percent in 2009, but quickly readjusted the following year. In 2017, Malta's GDP surpassed 12 billion U.S. dollars and is expected to continue on a positive trend for the next few years. The growth of the Maltese economy had steered Malta towards an economic boom, which in turn led to a strong labor market resulting in the decline of unemployment rate and the increase of income. They both contributed towards a better quality of life, and as a result of this, life expectancy at birth in Malta increased to almost 82 years in 2015, on par with the average life expectancy of developed countries worldwide.
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