Malta's membership of the European Union began in 2004 after a referendum in March 2003 resulted in a "yes" majority voting for accession.
The foundations of Malta's relationship with the European Union were laid officially upon signing an Association Agreement in December 1970, calling for the creation of a customs union based on free trade between Malta and the European Economic Community (EEC).
Joining the European Union
The foundations of Malta's relationship with the European Union were laid officially upon signing an Association Agreement in December 1970. This agreement called for the creation of a customs union based on free trade between Malta and the European Economic Community (EEC).
Malta’s formal application to join the European Community was submitted in July 1990, followed by a positive opinion from the European Commission in June 1993. However, the application was temporarily halted in 1996, when a change in government resulted in a change of political direction. In the subsequent year, the Maltese government communicated its wish to seek as close relationship with the European Union as is compatible with Malta's particular economic and geopolitical circumstances, while mindful of the Union's acquis and its framework of operations.
In February 1998, the European Commission presented an action plan to the Council. The plan outlined a free-trade area and enhanced cooperation with Malta. In September 1998, following fresh elections, the Maltese government informed the Council of its wish to reactivate Malta's application for EU membership.
Formal accession negotiations started in 2000 and were completed by the end of 2002. A referendum was held in March 2003 with the result being a resounding yes to EU membership. Following the signature of the Treaty of Accession in April 2003, Malta joined the EU a year later, on 1st May, 2004, together with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia in the largest EU enlargement to date.
Since it joined the EU, Malta has changed in many ways. Some of these changes were a direct result of EU membership while others were simply the result of globalisation. EU membership has renewed Malta’s geopolitical relevance as a small island state in the Mediterranean and it has led to fundamental political, economic and social developments. Years of increasing interconnectedness resulted in decreased insularity and increased international participation.
Our civil society is more connected with its European peers and it is protected by an additional set of supranational laws. Our economy has been transformed into one that is primarily based on services, while the manufacturing sector has shifted towards more high-value products. There have been major investments in infrastructure and the environment. Heritage and agriculture have benefited from additional funds.
On the financial front, Malta no longer has to deal with the risks of managing a small currency because it adopted the Euro. Consequently, its deficit was brought down to more manageable levels. This has helped Malta weather the international financial storm that ensued after the recent financial crises without severe repercussions on Malta’s economy.
Being a member of the EU has also given Malta the opportunity to voice its opinions on the political issues facing Europe and the world. Although the weight of our opinions may be considered small in absolute terms, it is still considerably large when it is put into perspective. In the European Council and the Council, Malta is at par with the other 27 Member States, while in the European Parliament, Malta has six elected representatives which have helped shape the EU agenda on various issues that concern Maltese citizens.
The culmination of Malta’s membership in the European Union took place on 1 January 2017, when Malta assumed the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, from January to June of that year.
What being in the EU means for Malta
- Maltese businesses have unhindered access to a market of over 440 million people
- Access to various funds for bettering crucial infrastructure, especially with regard to health, environment and wellbeing: examples include the Oncology Centre at Mater Dei Hospital, and the National Flood Relief Project, amongst many others.
- Maltese citizens have the right to move, work and reside freely within the territory of other member states Maltese views and interests are reflected in the policies of the EU towards the rest of the world.
- The Maltese language is an official language in the EU, which helps to protect the country’s native mother tongue for future generations.
- Maltese students and workers have access to traineeships and educational and vocational opportunities due to Erasmus+, the EU’s training programme for adult education, vocational education and training, and school education.