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World : Europe : Malta
AlbaniaMalta was an important cultic center for earth-mother worship in the 4th millennium B.C. Recent archeological work shows a developed religious center there long before those of Sumer and Egypt. Malta's written history began well before the Christian era. Originally the Phoenicians, and later the Carthaginians, established ports and trading settlements on the island. During the second Punic War (218 B.C.), Malta became part of the Roman Empire. During Roman rule, in A.D. 60, Saint Paul was shipwrecked on Malta at a place now called St. Paul's Bay.

In 533 A.D. Malta became part of the Byzantine Empire and in 870 came under Arab control. Arab occupation and rule left a strong imprint on Maltese life, customs, and language. The Arabs were driven out in 1090 by a band of Norman adventurers under Count Roger of Normandy, who had established a
kingdom in southern Italy and Sicily. Malta thus became an appendage of Sicily for 440 years. During this period, Malta was sold and resold to various feudal lords and barons and was dominated successively by the rulers of Swabia, Aquitaine, Aragon, Castile, and Spain.

In 1522 Suleiman II drove the Knights of St. John out of Rhodes. They dispersed to their commanderies in Europe and after repeated requests for territory to Charles V, in 1530 the Knights were given sovereignty of Malta under the suzerainty of the Kings of Sicily. In 1523, a key date in Maltese history, the islands were ceded by Charles V of Spain to the Order of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. For the next 275 years, these famous "Knights of Malta" made the island their domain. They built towns, palaces, churches, gardens, and fortifications and embellished the island with numerous works of art and enhanced cultural heritage. In 1565 Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Malta. After several months the strength of the Knights and the Maltese population prevailed and the Turks were defeated. Over the years, the power of the Knights declined, however, and their rule of Malta ended with their peaceful surrender to Napoleon in 1798.

The people of Malta rose against French rule, which lasted two years, and with the help of the British evicted them in 1800. In 1814, Malta voluntarily became part of the British Empire. Under the United Kingdom, the island became a military and naval fortress, the headquarters of the British Mediterranean fleet. During World War II, Malta survived relentless raids from German and Italian military forces (1940-43). In recognition, King George VI in 1942 awarded the George Cross "to the island fortress of Malta--its people and defenders." President Franklin Roosevelt, describing the wartime period, called Malta "one tiny bright flame in the darkness." Malta obtained independence on September 21, 1964, became a Republic on December 13, 1974, and a member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. The last British forces left in March 1979.


The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens, and the law and the judiciary provide effective means of addressing individual instances of abuse.

There were no reports of the arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life committed by the Government or its agents.

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.


Possessing few indigenous raw materials and a very small domestic market, Malta has based its economic development on the promotion of tourism, accounting for roughly 30% of GDP, and exports of manufactured goods, mainly semi-conductors, which account for some 75% of total Maltese exports. Since the beginning of the 1990s, expansion in these activities has been the principal engine for strong growth in the Maltese economy.

Tourist arrivals and foreign exchange earnings derived from tourism have steadily increased since the late 1970s. Following the September 11 attacks, the tourist industry has suffered some setbacks worldwide. Maltese tourist arrivals fell by a cumulative 7% during 2001 and 2002. At the same time, the bursting of the high tech bubble dampened exports and private investments.

Despite these adverse developments, the relatively flexible labor markets kept unemployment fairly steady at 7.2 (Labor Force Survey Jan – March 2004) Following a decline in GDP in 2001, a modest recovery began in 2002, with some improvements in the tourist sector in the second half of the year. Employment growth, however, remained weak.

The recent low economic growth coupled with corporate bond preference by the private sector has contributed to a weak demand for bank loans. Combined with the strong growth in deposits in the past couple of years, this has led to a rapid buildup of liquidity in the banking system and pressures to reduce interest rates that are fully liberalized. The banking system remains highly concentrated with two of the four local banks accounting for about 90% of total loans and deposits.

The Maltese Government has pursued a policy of gradual economic liberalization, taking some steps to shift the emphasis in trade and financial policies from reliance on direct government intervention and control to policy regimes that allow a greater role for market mechanisms. Malta’s accession into the EU will mark the total dismantling of protective import levies on industrial products, increasing the outward orientation of the economy. Malta maintains a long-standing exchange rate peg to a basket of currencies – currently composed of the euro, pound sterling and dollar. The peg has delivered low inflation and served Malta well, especially during the period of liberalization.

The fiscal situation remains difficult despite some progress in consolidating public finances. The budget deficit was brought down from 10.7% of GDP in 1998 to 9.7% of GDP in 2003 (still high by EU standards), mainly through increases in tax rates and improved collection of taxes due. Current expenditures were reduced in the late 1990s but have crawled back up. The public sector wage bill and subsidies to public enterprises were mainly responsible for this increase. Substantial privatization proceeds have limited the increase in public debt, which grew from 24% of GDP in 1990 to almost 72.01% in 2003.

The Maltese Government is expected to shortly announce reforms to the pension and welfare system and reduce the public sector involvement in the economy as part of the medium- term fiscal consolidation plan. According to the Maltese government plans, the fiscal deficit is expected to go down to 3.5% of GDP by the end of 2005. Economic growth was 1.6% in 2003.


Inhabited since prehistoric times, Malta was first colonized by the Phoenicians. Subsequently, Romans, Arabs, Normans, the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, and the British have influenced Maltese life and culture to varying degrees. Most of the foreign community in Malta, predominantly active or retired British nationals and their dependents, centers around Sliema and surrounding modern suburbs. There is also a growing North African Muslim community of about 3000 (2003), many of whom are married to Maltese nationals. There have also been a number of Maltese nationals converting to Islam. Roman Catholicism is established by law as the religion of Malta; however, full liberty of conscience and freedom of worship is guaranteed, and a number of faiths have places of worship on the island.


The crime rate in Malta is low, compared to more developed countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Malta. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Malta will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 1.95 per 100,000 population for Malta, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 3.17 for Malta, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 35.56 for Malta, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 18.27 for Malta, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 1246.46 for Malta, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 1246.46 for Malta, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 255.96 for Malta, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 24.60 for Malta, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.


Between 1999 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 3 to 1.95 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 35. The rate for rape decreased from 3.24 to 3.17, a decrease of 2.16. The rate of robbery decreased from 52.92 to 35.56, a decrease of 32.80. The rate for aggravated assault increased from 13.73 to 18.27, an increase of 33.07. The rate for burglary increased from 1061.07 to 1246.46, an increase of 17.47. The rate of larceny increased from 850.9 to 1246.46, an increase of 46.49. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 268.57 to 255.96, a decrease of 4.7. The rate of total index offenses increased from 2253.43 to 2807.83, an increase of 24.60.


The Police Corps is responsible for internal security, for maintaining law and order and for enforcing the law, with backup support from the armed forces. The civilian authorities maintained effective control of the security forces. There were no reports that security forces committed human rights abuses.

The Police Corps maintained internal security with backup support from the armed forces. The armed forces were responsible for defense, with an emphasis on protecting the country's territorial waters and airspace. The appointed commissioner who commands the police was under the effective supervision of the civilian Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, while the commander of the armed forces was under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister.

The police may arrest a person for questioning on the basis of reasonable suspicion but within 48 hours must either release the suspect or file charges. Arrested persons have no right to legal counsel during this 48-hour period. Persons incarcerated pending trial were granted access to counsel. Bail normally was granted. Detention cells were in use at police headquarters.

Police officers with the rank of inspector and above were allowed to issue search warrants based on reasonable grounds for suspicion of wrongdoing. Under the law, special powers such as telephone tapping are available to the security services only under specific written authorization of the Minister for Home Affairs or the Prime Minister; such actions are permitted only in cases related to national security, including combating organized crime. Authorizations are examined by a special commission and security committee; the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, and the Ministers of Home and Foreign Affairs were on this committee and oversaw the service's work.


The Constitution and the law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, and the Government generally respected these prohibitions.

The Police Corps maintained internal security with backup support from the armed forces. The armed forces were responsible for defense, with an emphasis on protecting the country's territorial waters and airspace. The appointed commissioner who commands the police was under the effective supervision of the civilian Minister of Justice and Home Affairs, while the commander of the armed forces was under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister.

The police may arrest a person for questioning on the basis of reasonable suspicion but within 48 hours must either release the suspect or file charges. Arrested persons have no right to legal counsel during this 48-hour period. Persons incarcerated pending trial were granted access to counsel. Bail normally was granted. Detention cells were in use at police headquarters.


Malta's judiciary is independent. The chief justice and sixteen judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. Their mandatory retirement age is 65. There is a civil court, a commercial court, a family court, and a criminal court. In the latter, the presiding judge sits with a jury of nine. The court of appeal hears appeals from decisions of the civil court and of the commercial court. The court of criminal appeal hears appeals from judgments of conviction by the criminal court. The highest court, the Constitutional Court, hears appeals in cases involving violations of human rights, interpretation of the constitution, and invalidity of laws. It also has jurisdiction in cases concerning disputed parliamentary elections and electoral corrupt practices. There also are inferior courts presided over by a magistrate.


Prison conditions generally met international standards. Men and women were held separately, as were juveniles and adults. Pretrial detainees were also held separately from convicted prisoners.

The Government permits visits by independent human rights observers; a delegation from the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited the country during the year.


During the year, reports of domestic violence against women showed a small decrease. During the year, the Police Domestic Violence Unit received 233 reports of domestic violence, an average of 19 per month, compared with 260 reports for 2003 or an average of 22 per month. A special police unit and several voluntary organizations provided support to victims of domestic violence. There was a hotline to assist victims of abuse through counseling and referrals to legal assistance shelters. The Government provided support to victims of domestic violence through the Department of Welfare for the Family and its Social Welfare Agency known as Appogg; a Government-supported shelter for women and children operated during the year. The Government also maintained an emergency fund and subsidized shelters. The Government provided financial support to a shelter operated by the Catholic Church.

Rape and violent indecent assault carry sentences of up to 10 years' imprisonment. The law treats spousal rape in the same manner as other rape. Divorce is not available. However, if obtained legally abroad, it can be enforced in the country. Both legal separation and civil annulment are available.

Prostitution is a criminal offense. Although exact figures were not available, there were a number of prosecutions during the year. The law was enforced in such cases and included prison sentences of between several months and 2 years.

The Constitution provides that all citizens have access, on a nondiscriminatory basis, to housing, employment, and education.

There has been a significant increase in the number of women pursuing higher education. In 2003, women university graduates outnumbered their male counterparts. There has been an increase in female participation in courses such as information technology and engineering, while the law student body was mainly made up of women.

While women constituted a growing portion of the work force, they were underrepresented in management and generally earned less than their male counterparts.

During the year, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly suspended the voting rights of the country's delegation at an Assembly session because it did not include a woman. The Parliament subsequently changed the composition of the delegation to include a female representative.

During the year, the court found a commercial cargo handling company owned by the largest trade union, the General Workers Union, guilty of gender-based discrimination against three female employees and was ordered to pay damages to the employees.

The Ministry for the Family and Social Solidarity and the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality for Men and Women, set up during the year, handled gender equality issues. The Commission's program focused on broader integration of women into society. It advised the Government on the implementation of policies in favor of equality of the sexes.

Women enjoyed equality in matters of family law, and the Government promoted equal rights for all persons regardless of gender. The Government took steps to provide gender-neutral legislation, and redress in the courts for sexual discrimination was available.


The Government was strongly committed to children's rights and welfare. It provided free, compulsory, and universal education through age 16. Close to 100 percent of school age children attend school. The Government provided universal free health care to all citizens.

The Government addressed concerns for children's rights and welfare within family law. A law establishing the Commissioner for Children to oversee children's rights came into force in December 2003, and the commissioner was appointed in January.

The number of reported cases of child abuse increased from the previous year, although there was no societal pattern of abuse of children. As of the end of June, 516 cases of child abuse had been reported. Prison sentences were handed down in a number of cases involving sexual abuse of minors.

All criminal proceedings related to the family, particularly cases involving children, were transferred from the Magisterial Courts to the newly established Criminal Section of the Family Court.


The criminal code prohibits trafficking in persons. During the year, the Criminal Court handed down a jail sentence in the case of three persons who were found guilty of trafficking foreign women for the purpose of sexual exploitation, but the sentence was suspended. The law prohibits procurement for prostitution, pornography, sexual offenses, defilement of minors, illegal detainment, unlawful carnal knowledge, and indecent assault. Traffickers may be prosecuted under the criminal code or under the Immigration Act for unlawful entry or unregulated status.


The Republic of Malta does not play a significant role in the shipment, processing or production of narcotics and psychotropic drugs and other controlled substances. The Maltese Government has expended a great deal of time and energy over the past several years updating Malta's laws and criminal codes in preparation for accession to the European Union. As a result, Malta's criminal code stands in harmony with the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

The Malta Police Drug Unit and the National Drug Intelligence Unit (NDIU) continue to improve their capabilities. Success in the battle waged against the drug problem in Malta is perhaps best illustrated by the increase in seizures of heroin and cocaine. The steady increase in the quantity of drugs seized over the last five years is a clear indication of improved coordination and communications among all agencies involved.

Maltese Government approved surveys indicate that illicit drug use is confined to a small segment of the population. The Government claims that drug usage is much lower than in other European countries and points to these surveys indicating that cannabis is used by less than 3.5 percent of the population as a key indicator. Enforcement agencies enjoy popular support for their efforts to combat drug related crime and the local press routinely gives favorable coverage to initiatives undertaken by the police to combat drug trafficking and drug abuse.

Malta is a minor player in global production, processing, and transshipment of narcotics and other controlled substances. There is no evidence to indicate that Malta's role in the worldwide drug trade will change significantly in the near future. Malta's small population makes unwanted trends easy to detect and deter. The drug problem is generally limited to the sale and use of consumer quantities of illegal drugs. Cultivation activity in Malta is limited to the growing of less than 200 cannabis plants per year.

In August of 2003, the Government of Malta (GOM) and the United States concluded negotiations on the final language of an agreement concerning "cooperation to suppress illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances by sea." This agreement should be signed and enter into force in the near future.

The GOM is increasingly concerned with the proliferation of recreational drugs such as ecstasy (MDMA). Police officials are disturbed by the fact those using and trafficking in illicit drugs are doing so with greater impunity than in the past. The GOM is particularly concerned about drug use among teenagers and has taken an aggressive stance in combating drugs and drug-related crime. A growth in the budget resources devoted to the National Drug Intelligence Unit (NDIU) and the Special Assistant Commissioner for drug-related matters, are clear indications of the emphasis the government places on the fight against drugs. The Malta Police Drug Unit has grown from 12 to 58 officers over the past 6 years.

Police and Customs personnel have had significant success through the profiling and targeting of suspected passengers transiting the airport. The police and the armed forces work together to monitor, intercept and interrupt sea borne smuggling of illegal drugs. Maltese custom officials have worked to become more adept at detecting and preventing the movement of drugs through the sea terminal. This task is somewhat daunting given the volume of containers moving through Malta's free port. Port authorities have shown the ability to respond quickly when notified by foreign law enforcement of intelligence related to transshipment attempts. In 2003, there were seizures of approximately 6.7 kilograms of cocaine and 4.4 kilograms of heroin.

There was no significant seizure of property related to drug crimes in 2003. However, current Maltese law provides the necessary provisions for asset forfeiture of those accused of drug related crimes.

The USG is not aware of any corruption of public officials associated with illegal drug activities and does not have evidence that a serious corruption problem exists within the ranks of enforcement agencies. Maltese law contains the necessary provisions to deal effectively with official corruption. By way of example, in 2002 the country's Chief Justice and two fellow judges were arraigned on corruption charges for taking bribes from inmates convicted on drug charges. Investigative agencies used newly-granted wiretapping authority to identify the judges involved and gather evidence that they were planning to accept bribes in exchange for reducing the sentences of several individuals appealing the terms of their drug convictions. This case was an important example both of the Government's willingness to properly apply anticorruption laws and as a signal to the Maltese people that the social elite are not "untouchable" as had been believed widely for many years.

Malta is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the e 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. Currently, extradition between the U.S. and Malta is governed through the 1931 U.S.-UK Extradition Treaty, made applicable to Malta as of 1935. The USG and the GOM have begun negotiations on both an mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) and a bilateral extradition treaty. At this time, negotiations are on hold but are expected to resume following Malta's accession to the EU in the spring of 2004.

There is no significant cultivation/production of narcotics in Malta.

Currently, there is no data that indicates that Malta is a major trafficking location. The free port in Malta is a continuing source of concern due to the volume of containers which pass through its vast container terminal. Equipment and training provided through USG non-proliferation and border security initiatives have enhanced Malta's ability to monitor illicit trafficking through the sea terminal. This should improve detection and act as a deterrent to narcotics traffickers seeking to use container shipping activity at Malta's free port as a platform for drug movements through the country. Malta serves as a routine transfer point for travel between North Africa and Europe. Heroin smuggled into Malta by this route is primarily carried in by visitors from North African countries (Libya, in particular).

Sedqa is the name given to the Maltese government-funded agency responsible for all aspects of drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation. Sedqa runs awareness and drug education programs in the schools (similar to the DARE program in the U.S.) This agency promotes a drug awareness program through advertising in the national media. Police officials also work closely with an agency funded by the Catholic Church called CARITAS. Police will often refer arrestees to CARITAS for rehabilitation and counseling services.

A nation-wide survey of Malta's population regarding the drug abuse problem conducted in 2001 indicated that 83 percent consider drug abuse to be a serious problem, compared with 43 percent in 1984. The same survey revealed that people in Malta perceive illicit drug users more as those in need of medical care ("patients") than as criminals. Like other predominantly Christian southern European cultures, a variety of festivals and open-air concerts take place in Malta throughout the year. A large number of such activities are held during the warmer months and attract younger tourists as well as local youth. The police have sought to reduce the demand for ecstasy and similar drugs at such events by establishing a strong police presence and through random searching of those entering the venues. Regardless, the police are disturbed by the growing market for these types of "party drugs" in Malta.

U.S. law enforcement and security agencies and their Maltese counterparts continue to cooperate closely on drug-related crime. Maltese officials remain interested in securing USG-sponsored training for personnel involved in narcotics control whenever possible. U.S. Customs, and the U.S. Coast Guard both provided training in Malta during 2003. The U.S. Customs Regional Export Control Advisor continues to work closely with port officials in an effort to improve their ability to monitor and detect illegal shipments. The proper utilization of the recently-donated VACIS monitoring system is a key goal and therefore the emphasis in training is on suspicious container identification, monitoring, and use of the detection equipment. The Defense Attache's Office routinely provides training through the U.S. Coast Guard to personnel assigned to the Maltese Maritime Enforcement Squadron. Training focuses on maritime search and seizure techniques as well as on the proper utilization and operation of the recently donated state-of the-art patrol boat. The joint effort to provide training, support and assistance to GOM law enforcement agencies has clearly improved the Maltese enforcement agencies ability to profile individuals possibly involved with trafficking and/or in possession of dangerous drugs.

Maltese authorities work harmoniously with USG efforts to stem the proliferation of narcotics and dangerous drugs. We fully expect that such cooperation will continue.


Internet research assisted by Michael Lapena


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