The European Investment Bank (EIB) announces further long-term finance for BEF 2 billion (ECU 49.8 million)(1) advanced to Aquafin, the company responsible for managing wastewater treatment facilities in Flanders. Today's agreement, arranged in collaboration with Crédit Communal de Belgique, brings to BEF 11 billion aggregate EIB lending since 1994 for the programme carried out by Aquafin in the wastewater sector.

The finance contract was signed at Aquafin's head office in Antwerp by Sir Brian Unwin, President of the EIB, and by Mr R. Maenhaut, Chairman of Aquafin, and Mr J. De Greef, Deputy Managing Director.

On this occasion, the EIB's President emphasised the importance of projects of the kind undertaken by Aquafin with a view to reducing pollution in Europe: "The present project is a prime example of positive action which the EIB is supporting within the Union to help in protecting the environment. By virtue of its regional dimension, this project will ultimately serve a population of 5.7 million. Furthermore, the investment in question will have a positive effect on water quality in the North Sea; it forms part of international measures being taken forward under the 1985 Convention on the North Sea (the aim of which is to reduce the level of pollution in these waters). It will thereby contribute towards safeguarding a natural asset shared by several EU countries."

The regional water management programme, initiated by Aquafin in 1994, encompasses construction and modernisation of mains sewers, pumping stations and sewage treatment facilities throughout the Region of Flanders. After three years in operation, Aquafin currently manages 134 wastewater treatment plants and some 2 500 km of mains sewers.

Over the past five years the Bank has committed in excess of BEF 1 000 billion (some ECU 25.5 billion) for environmental purposes. These funds have gone mainly into water resource management (construction of sewerage and wastewater treatment systems) and solid waste processing. Schemes financed have also included projects to improve the quality of urban life and to introduce less-polluting production processes in the energy, chemicals, petrochemicals and motor vehicle sectors.

The EIB's President, Sir Brian Unwin, accompanied by Mr Rudolf de Korte, Vice-President, and a delegation from the EIB, are conducting an official visit in Belgium (20 and 21 March 1997), in the course of which they are meeting the federal authorities and the Brussels, Flemish and Walloon regional authorities, as well as representatives from financial and industrial circles. In addition to these high-level contacts, this visit will give the EIB the opportunity to see for itself the progress being made on projects financed by it. As part of this programme, the Bank has today signed the above finance contract with Aquafin in the presence of representatives of the Flemish authorities, and will be visiting, on 21 March, Sofico and construction sites on the E25-E40 Liège motorway link. A meeting has also been scheduled in this connection with Mr R. Collignon, Prime Minister of the Walloon Region, and Mr M. Lebrun, Minister for Town and Country Planning and Transport.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31/12/1996, when ECU 1 = BEF 40.10, 0.737 GBP.