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Malta (i//; Maltese: [ˈmɐltɐ]), officially the Republic of Malta (Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta), is a Southern European island country comprising an archipelago of a few islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2 (122 sq mi), with a population of around 450,000, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which at 0.8 km2, is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.
Malta's location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands.
Malta was awarded the George Cross by King George VI in 1942, for the country's bravery in the Second World War. The George Cross continues to appear on Malta's national flag. Under the Malta Independence Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1964, Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom, as an independent sovereign Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its Head of State, officially known from 1964 to 1974 as Queen Elizabeth of Malta, within the Commonwealth of Nations. The country became a republic in 1974, and although no longer a Commonwealth realm, remains a current member state of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the eurozone.
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