Malta, island country located in the central Mediterranean Sea. A small but strategically important group of islands, the archipelago has through its long and turbulent history played a vital role in the struggles of a succession of powers for domination of the Mediterranean.
The country of Malta became independent from Britain and joined the Commonwealth in 1964 and was declared a republic on Dec. 13, 1974. It was admitted to the European Union (EU) in 2004. A European atmosphere predominates in Malta as a result of close association with the Continent, particularly with southern Europe. The country comprises five islands—Malta (the largest), Gozo, Comino, and the uninhabited islets of Kemmunett (Comminotto) and Filfla—lying some 58 miles (93 km) south of Sicily, 180 miles (290 km) north of Libya, and about 180 miles (290 km) east of Tunisia, at the eastern end of the constricted portion of the Mediterranean Sea separating Italy from the African coast.