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Malta Modern History

After World War II, the British colony of Malta was granted increased autonomy. Dom Mintoff, who led the Labor Party, became prime minister in 1955. His government wanted Malta to join forces with Britain, and in a 1956 referendum, the Maltese said yes to his proposal. The archipelago's other major party, the Conservative Nationalist Party, boycotted the vote.

In 1958, the plans for integration with the United Kingdom were abandoned and soon both parties wanted independence.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Malta. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The Nationalist Party came to power in 1962 with support from Malta's influential Catholic Church. With Giorgio Borg Olivier as prime minister, negotiations on formal independence began. In 1964 Malta became an independent state within the Commonwealth (Britain and its former colonies) with the British monarch as head of state. At the same time, an agreement was concluded on British financial aid to Malta and a British-Maltese defense alliance.

In 1971, the Labor Party and Dom Mintoff returned to power. The defense agreement with Britain was terminated and the government declared that Malta would be a neutral state with an alliance-free foreign policy. The constitution was amended in 1974 to make Malta a republic and the Queen's then Governor General of Malta, Sir Anthony Mamo, was appointed President.

In the 1970s, the industry was nationalized and the public sector expanded. The Workers' Party Government began a close collaboration with the largest trade union movement, the General Workers Union. In foreign policy, the government formed close ties with Libya, the Soviet Union, China and other communist countries.

Contemporary History of MaltaThe relationship between the two parties is deteriorating

The contradictions between the Labor Party and the Nationalist Party deepened during the 1981 elections. Just before the election, the government had introduced new rules for the division of constituencies. As a result, the Labor Party retained its majority in Parliament, despite the fact that more voters had voted for the Nationalist Party. In addition, the Labor Party was accused of directing the state radio and TV reporting in a government-friendly direction. In protest against the Labor Party, the Nationalist Party boycotted the Parliament in various rounds, for a maximum of 15 months.

Relations between the parties reached their low-water mark in November 1983 when the Labor Party government backed a scare against the Nationalist Party headquarters to look for alleged weapons hides. During this period, the government also presented a series of proposals to weaken the power of the Catholic Church. After violent criticism, the government was forced to withdraw the proposals.

In 1984 Dom Mintoff resigned as prime minister and a politically quiet period began. New leader of the Labor Party became Mifsud Bonnici, who was prime minister until the election in 1987. Then the Labor Party lost power after 16 years. Nationalist Party leader Edward Fenech-Adami took over the prime minister post.

The National Government worked for a closer approach to the West and implemented market economy reforms. Among other things, laws were enacted to attract more foreign investors to Malta. In 1990, Malta applied for membership of the EC (later the EU), despite opposition from the Labor Party. Subsequently, the government took several measures to adapt Malta's economic structure to the EC. The state's influence on the business sector was reduced and protective duties in trade with the outside world were abolished. In the 1992 election, the Nationalist Party again won.

The nationalists lose the election

The EC announced that negotiations with Malta would begin in 1996. In order to get voters support for membership, the government announced a new election in the fall of 1996. However, the calculation failed and the Labor Party won a scarce victory. The leader of the Labor Party, EU opponent Alfred Sant, became new prime minister.

Given the Nationalist Party's successful economic policy, the exit came as a surprise. The Nationalist Party had lowered unemployment, economic growth was relatively high and inflation low. The main reason why the government fell was probably the dissatisfaction of the voters with the VAT introduced by the government to prepare the way for EU membership. After the election, the Labor Party government withdrew the country's EU application and in 1997 the unpopular VAT was abolished.

A large budget deficit forced the government to tighten the economy. The 1998 budget included large fee increases for water and electricity as well as sales of state-owned companies. The measures were heavily criticized by party veteran Dom Mintoff for primarily affecting low-income earners. Mintoff refused to follow the party line and thus the Labor Party lost its majority in parliament. However, the budget went through thanks to the President's vote. Mintoff then voted against the government in a vote of confidence and Prime Minister Sant was forced to announce new elections.

In the 1998 election, the Nationalist Party received almost 52 percent of the vote, the best result for the party during the post-war period. Malta applied again for EU membership in September of the same year. The new Prime Minister, Edward Fenech-Adami, promised an advisory referendum on membership.

Malta joins the EU

Negotiations between Malta and the EU began in 2000. Two years later, Malta, together with nine other countries in eastern and southern Europe, received the sign of the European Commission for accession to the Union in 2004. In March 2003, 53 percent voted in favor of EU membership. The no-side got 46 percent.

In order to take advantage of the windfall in the referendum, the government announced parliamentary elections in April 2003, eight months earlier than required by the constitution.

The election result was almost a repeat of the referendum. The Nationalist Party gained a satisfactory majority with almost 52 percent of the vote, compared to 47.5 percent for the Labor Party. A few days after the election, Malta and the other candidate countries signed the formal accession treaty to the EU.

In February 2004, 70-year-old Edward Fenech-Adami resigned as prime minister and leader of the Nationalist Party. He was succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in both positions.

On May 1, 2004, Malta became a full member of the EU.

The refugee issue

Since the EU accession, the influx of refugees from mainly North Africa has been a major problem for Malta. In 2005, Malta demanded that the EU countries distribute asylum seekers among themselves according to their area and population. The claim was supported by the European Commission and some of the refugees were redistributed. In 2007, Malta received EU support in the form of patrolling the coasts, but the refugee stream continued. In July of that year, Justice Minister Tonio Borg warned of a crisis if the trend continued. He said the development had already had political consequences; a month earlier, a new political party had been formed, the National Action, which wanted to take action against illegal immigration.

The March 2008 parliamentary elections gave the Nationalist Party its third victory in a row, but this time it was by a tiny margin - about 1,500 votes. The Nationalist Party received 35 of the 69 seats, while the Labor Party received the remaining 34. Lawrence Gonzi remained as prime minister.

National campaign took place in the election but was wound up a few years after the election loss.

Alfred Sant, who had led the Labor Party since 1992, resigned immediately after the election and was replaced by EU parliamentarian Joseph Muscat. The new party leader made an attempt to wash away the Labor Party's stamp as EU skeptic and declared that Malta would now become a truly European state. This would be done by safeguarding the rights of all citizens, without hindrance from the Catholic Church. However, he added that the Labor Party was still opposed to legalizing abortion.

After the election, the national government raised the fees on electricity and water to bring more money into the Treasury. The government also initiated the privatization of state-owned companies. The international financial crisis of 2008-2009 caused Malta's usually low unemployment to rise to seven percent in 2009. To dampen the effects of the recession, the government provided financial support to the tourism sector and some of the country's largest manufacturing industries.

In the spring of 2009, the government received criticism from environmental organizations and the opposition for its plans to expand the Delimara power plant. Environmental organizations considered that the emissions from the oil-fired plant would be too large. At the same time, the opposition published documents showing that the government could be suspected of corruption in connection with the procurement of the expansion.

In the summer of 2011, the whole deal was investigated by a parliamentary audit committee. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance took control of the state's energy companies and water companies from the Ministry of Infrastructure. However, corruption charges have already been directed against Finance Minister Tonio Fenech. The opposition demanded his departure, but Fenech could not be bound to any irregularities and remained as minister.

The refugee wave is tempting

Refugee traffic across the Mediterranean continued as before. The government repeatedly appealed for a fairer distribution of refugees within the EU. In 2009, the Union initiated a pilot project in which other EU countries would voluntarily receive a few thousand of the refugees who have been granted asylum in Malta, but the distribution went slow and the project became a disappointment for Malta. However, some refugees could be sent to the United States.

In order to reduce refugee flows, the EU increased coastal surveillance in the Mediterranean. Malta and Italy signed an agreement with Libya to send refugees back. As a result, the number of refugees who came to Malta and Italy decreased sharply in 2009 and 2010. Instead, more and more refugees began to enter the EU via Greece.

The refugee flow increased again in 2011, mainly due to an uprising in Libya that was followed by civil war. Migrant flows to Malta continued during 2012 and 2013 when more than 2000 people arrived from Africa.

The Maltese parliament voted in July 2011 for a law that allows divorce, which the Maltese said yes in a referendum two months earlier. Malta thus became the last country in the EU to lift the ban on divorce. Among all the states in the world remained the Philippines and the Vatican City, which did not allow divorce.

At the end of 2012, the government lost its scarce majority in parliament, after a member of the ruling Nationalist Party voted against the budget, which was therefore rejected. The government fell and elections were announced until March 2013. The Social Democratic opposition in the Labor Party had a clear takeover in public opinion before the election and also won by a good margin.

 
 

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