Malta is to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2015.
The Commonwealth Network of Information Technology for Development (COMNET-IT) has its secretariat in Valletta. COMNET-IT has championed the development of the Commonwealth Action Programme for the Digital Divide.
Malta is one of only three Commonwealth member countries in Europe, all of which are island states and members of the European Union.
The Republic of Malta comprises an archipelago of six islands and islets in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of Sicily and 290 km from the coast of North Africa. Malta, Gozo and Comino are inhabited; the other islands are Cominotto, Filfla and St Paul’s Island.
Valletta (capital, pop. 5,748 in 2011, greater Valletta includes Birkirkara, Qormi, Zabbar, San Gwann, Sliema, Marsascala, Fgura, Zejtun and Hamrun), Birkirkara (21,749), Mosta (19,750), San Pawl il-Bahar (16,935), Qormi (16,934), Zabbar (14,916), Sliema (13,621), Naxxar (12,875), San Gwann (12,152), Zebbug (11,580), Fgura (11,449), Zejtun (11,334), Rabat (11,212), Marsascala (11,059), Hamrun (9,043) and Victoria (on Gozo, also known as Rabat, 6,252).
There are 3,100 km of roads, 88 per cent paved. There is no railway.
Valletta Grand Harbour is the most important of several harbours. A busy free port has been established at Marsaxlokk in the south- east.
The international airport, Gudja International, is 6 km south of Valletta. Helicopter services fly between Malta Island and Gozo.
Malta is a member of the Council of Europe, European Union, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Low hills and terraced fields occur on the three main islands. There are no rivers, streams or lakes on Malta Island, which has an indented coast on the eastern side with several good natural harbours. Gozo has cliffs and flat-topped hills. Water is obtained from natural ground water resources and desalination. The latter now accounts for 65 per cent of water production and has relieved the shortage of fresh water.
Mediterranean type: hot and dry in July–September, with cooling sea-breezes. Winters are mild and wet, with warm westerly winds.
There are very limited natural freshwater resources, and increasing reliance on desalination.
The islands have been short of water and the soil is not deep. Mediterranean scrub is the natural vegetation. Approximately 12,000 hectares (less than five per cent of which is irrigated) are under cultivation.
here are small mammals, such as hedgehogs, the least weasel and shrews; resident birds include Sardinian warblers, Manx and Cory’s shearwaters and the blue rock thrush.