5 things to know about NATO in Malta

NATO headquarters at Floriana Malta 1950s
NATO at Floriana, Malta, 1950s. Photo supplied by Joseph Piccinino.

The neutrality clause in Malta’s National Constitution is infamous. Yet, we find that, throughout its history, Malta has evolved a story of its own with the intergovernmental military alliance known as NATO.

1. The NATO subheadquarters in Malta

This is an early 1950’s picture of the building housing the NATO subheadquarters, it has NATO’s emblem on top of the doorway. The building is located in Floriana, in St Anne’s Street; the whole block lining the street was completely rebuilt after the war. A close look will also show that there is scaffolding around St Publius Church’s right belfry, and the statue of Christ on the portico still has to be raised

2. The Lascaris War Rooms were used by NATO

The Lascaris War Rooms were also taken over by NATO in 1967 and used as a strategic communication centre for the interception of Soviet submarines in the Mediterranean. The War Rooms, a network of underground tunnels and chambers, were originally used by the British during World War II.

3. NATO’s presence in Malta was ceased at the request of the government

For several years after independence in 1964, Malta followed a policy of close co-operation with the United Kingdom and other NATO countries. A change in government in 1971 found Malta adopting a non-alignment and neutrality policy, and was thus opposed to the presence of NATO in Malta. The building and the communication centre were both closed down in 1977 at the request of the government.

4. Malta opposed NATO to adopt NAM

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an intergovernmental military alliance whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of states which are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc.

5. Malta resumes its relationship with NATO

In 1995, Malta joined the Partnership for Peace programme, however in 1996 Malta suspended its involvement in it, until it reactivated its membership in 2008. The Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a NATO programme aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union; it has 22 member states.

Melanie Drury

Melanie Drury

Writing has been Melanie's craft for as long as she could remember, and it combined well with her new-found love for long-haul travel, her greatest indulgence even now. Melanie's next favourite indulgence is dancing, whether out at a party, at a workshop or in her living room - it makes her feel alive, free, and connected, just as it does to experience nature, or to connect with people and their worlds.