The island-state of Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, south of Sicily (Italy), it consists of three islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino, of which Malta is the largest island. In its history, the Maltese archipelago was always strategically significant for the domination of the Mediterranean. Malta became an EU member in May 2004.
Great Britain formally acquired possession of Malta in the early 19th century. The island supported the UK through both World Wars and remained in the Commonwealth when it became independent in 1964. On 13 December 1974, Malta became a republic. Over the last 15 years, the island has become a main freight transshipment point, a financial center, and a popular tourist destination.