Foreign policy and defense
Malta is a nation in Southern Europe. Its capital city is Valletta. Although Malta is a small country, the archipelago, through its location in the middle of the Mediterranean, has always had a great political and strategic importance. Malta has long seen itself as a bridge between Europe and North Africa. Since joining the EU in 2004, refugee flows from Africa have been a problem in relations with the EU.
After independence from Britain in 1964, Malta pursued a pro-British foreign policy for seven years and the country cooperated with the Western Defense Alliance NATO. When the Labor Party came to power in 1971, the country officially declared freedom of alliance, but close contacts with the political course were rescheduled. Close contacts were made with Libya, the Soviet Union and the communist countries of Eastern Europe. The British military base on the island was closed in 1979. In 1984 Malta signed a five-year agreement with Libya on military cooperation. The close relations with Libya brought blood to the United States and Britain.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Malta for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
When the bourgeois Nationalist Party came to power in 1987, Malta approached the West again, but at the same time the government was striving to maintain good relations with Libya. In the same year, an addition was made in the constitution which prohibits Malta from leasing bases to other countries or to liaise with any power block. The agreement with Libya was renewed in 1990 but no longer included military cooperation.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, foreign policy was characterized by Malta’s relationship with the EU (see Modern History). In May 2004, Malta joined the EU and 2007 in the Schengen cooperation, which included abolishing passport controls at the borders. In 2008, the euro was introduced as the currency of Malta. In the first half of 2017, Malta was the EU’s country of presidency.
Malta’s geographical location has caused about 18,000 refugees from North Africa to have flowed to the country since EU accession. Notably, many came after the Democratic uprising in North Africa and the civil war in Libya in 2011, but refugees continued to arrive even years later. Malta has demanded that the refugee reception should be better distributed within the EU and the country has received some help, but as the migrant crisis has grown within the EU, the discussion about the distribution has become increasingly locked (see also People’s population and languages).
Libya and Tunisia are Malta’s closest neighbors after Italy and in both cases discussions have taken place regarding seawater boundaries and the distribution of possible natural resources on the seabed. Malta has also been in conflict with Italy over the border demarcation at sea.
With Tunisia, Malta has signed an agreement to jointly search for oil. The talks that have been held with Libya on a similar agreement were postponed due to border dispute. Diaogen stalled during the popular uprising against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who ended the regime’s fall in 2011.
During the uprising, several EU countries used Malta as a transit country to evacuate their citizens from Libya. However, Malta said no to the NATO countries who wanted to use the island nation as a base for the NATO-led coalition’s airstrikes against Libya in connection with the uprising. Foreign Minister Tonio Borg pointed out that it would run counter to Malta’s neutrality and he was supported by the opposition. The monitoring plan was allowed to land in Malta if necessary.
After Gaddafi’s death, Malta recognized the Libyan rebels’ transition council as Libya’s legitimate government. Attempts have been made to reestablish the previously strong trade relations, which has been made more difficult by the growing violence and disintegration in Libya. Malta has been involved in the world’s efforts to achieve a peaceful solution in the country.
Defense spending has halved since the end of the 1980s in terms of GDP share. The armed forces comprise almost 2,000 men; most are army soldiers, but there are also small aircraft and naval units. Marine capacity has been expanded to better patrol the country’s waters. Military service is optional. There is a defense agreement with Italy that “guarantees Malta’s neutrality”.
In 1995, Malta joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PFF) cooperation program, which includes joint exercises between NATO countries and neutral states such as Sweden, Austria and Switzerland. But the issue was controversial within the country and already the following year the Labor Party government left the cooperation. In April 2008, when the Nationalist Party had won the election, Malta rejoined the PFF.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 1 950 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.5 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 1.4 percent (2017)