Relations between Maltaand the EU date back to the 1960’s when, three years after its independence in 1964, Maltainformed the European Economic Community (EEC) that it wished to establish formal relations. Soon thereafter, negotiations were initiated, leading to the signing of the EC-Malta Association Agreement in Vallettaon 5th December 1970. The agreement, then only the third of its kind signed by the EC with a third country, entered in to force on 1st April 1971.
The Association Agreement formalised the close links between the EU and Malta. Under the Agreement the EU-Malta Association Council was established which brings together representatives of both sides at the highest political level. A Joint Parliamentary Committee was also set up bringing Members of Parliament from Maltaand the European Parliament together to discuss matters of mutual interest. The main focus of the Agreement was the gradual removal of barriers to trade, which would eventually allow unhindered access to each other’s markets. The result has been increasingly close trade relations, with the EU accounting for 46% of Malta’s exports (excluding re-exports) and 67% of Malta’s total imports (NSO provisional figures for 2002).
Though remaining in its first stage, the Association Agreement has been extended over the years. For example in 1976 after the accession of Denmark, Irelandand the UKand again in 1988 after the accession of Spainand Portugalto the EC. Apart from the necessary technical changes brought about by enlargements, the amendments allowed for a significant deepening of relations. The most notable change was the introduction of a package of technical and financial assistance with the 1976 amendment, in the form of a Financial Protocol (1st Financial Protocol: 1978 –1983), which entered into force in November 1978. Financial Protocols provided financial and technical assistance to Maltawithin specific sectors that enhanced MaltaMaltasigned four successive protocols allocating Lm 61.6 million (ECU: 138.5m) in financial assistance to Malta.
On 16 July 1990, Maltaformally applied for European Community membership followed by the publication of a favourable opinion (“Avis”) by the European Commission in June 1993.
The Barcelona Declaration of 28 November 1995marked a turning point in the EU relations with its 12 Mediterranean partners including Malta.
The Euro-Med partnership adopted three sets of instruments to reach its goal: political and security dialogue, economic, financial and commercial cooperation (inclusive of free trade area), partnership in cultural, social and human affairs.
The European Commission launched a MEDA Programme of financial assistance worth €3, 400 million to finance the implementation of the Euro-Med Partnership between 1995 and 1999. More recently MEDA II was launched. €5, 350 million was budgeted for the period 2000-2006. MEDA II is a key instrument in preparing for the Euro-Med free trade area by 2010. Under MEDA, Maltais only eligible to participate in regional projects.
Following a change of Government in October 1996 Malta's applicationfor EU membership was suspended. Maltawas subsequently excluded from the pre-accession strategy and the structured dialogue.
As a result of a change in government following the general election on 5 September 1998EU accession negotiations recommenced. The European General Affairs Council of October considered positively Malta's request for membership re-activation and "invited the Commission to present an analysis of the evolution of the situation in Maltasince the 1993 Opinion". Within a few days, the European Parliament voted a resolution asking the European Council and the Commission to support Malta’s accession "as soon as possible in full respect and procedures of the Treaty". The European Parliament also asked "the Council to include Malta, as soon as possible, as a member of the European Conference".
On 17 February 1999the European Commission adopted a report updating the 1993 opinion on Malta's application for EU membership. The European Commission recommended that the Council give the go ahead to the screening of Malta's legislation with a view to starting negotiations.
As from the year 2000, Maltaas a candidate country started receivingtechnical and financial support for the transposition of the Community acquis, for participation in Community Programmes and certain Community agencies and for increasing the Maltese administrative and judicial capacity.
On 11 December 1999, in Helsinki, the European Summit decided to start negotiations with Maltatogether with five other candidate countries (Latvia, Lithuania,Slovakia, Bulgariaand Romania). February 2000 saw the official launching of negotiations.
In December 2000, at the Nice Summit, it was decided that with regards to representation in the EU that Malta would have one Commissioner in the European Commission, one Minister in the Council of Ministers; five seats in the European Parliament; one Judge in the European Court of Justice; one judge in the European Court of First Instance; one member in the Court of Auditors; five members in the Economic and Social Committee of Regions.
During the CopenhagenSummit (December 2002), Maltacloses all the remaining chapters and negotiations are concluded.
Maltaholds a referendum on EU membership in March 2003 with 53.6% of the voters voting in favour of membership with a turnout of 91% of eligible voters. At the General Election on April 12 the Nationalist Party is reconfirmed in government. Thus on April 16 the Maltagovernment signs the Accession Treaty in Athens.
Maltaratifies the EU Accession Treaty in July 2003. In October, theMaltagovernment participates in the Inter-governmental Conference on a new Constitution and presents its position.