|a republic occupying the islands of Malta, Gozo, and Comino, in the Mediterranean south of Sicily: governed by the Knights Hospitallers from 1530 until Napoleon's conquest in 1798; French driven out, with British help, 1800; became British dependency 1814; suffered severely in World War II; became independent in 1964 and a republic in 1974; joined the EU in 2004; a member of the Commonwealth. Official languages: Maltese and English. Official religion: Roman Catholic. Currency: euro (from January 2008 replacing the Maltese lira). Capital: Valletta. Pop: 396 000 (2004 est). Area: 316 sq km (122 sq miles)|
Note: Malta, strategically located, has belonged to a succession of civilizations, including the ancient Greeks and the Roman Empire. In 1800, the British established control of Malta, which, since its independence in 1964, has continued to maintain close ties with Britain.