The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, has advanced a global loan to Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO) for 40 billion pesetas (ECU 247.8 million) (1), to help in financing investment schemes undertaken by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), geared essentially towards making more efficient use of energy, safeguarding the environment and enhancing the international competitiveness of the beneficiary enterprises.

This is the second global loan on such a scale concluded by the EIB in Spain, following the first one signed in 1996 for an identical amount and with the same Spanish financial institution, ICO. This type of cooperation with ICO, which in turn passes on the EIB funds to the commercial banking sector, provides funding for small-scale ventures, which have a major impact on regional development and on the competitiveness of Europe's industry, two of the European Union's priority objectives. In 1996 alone, the EIB arranged 8 global loans with eight other Spanish financial institutions, for a total of 110 billion pesetas (ECU 668 million), which last year were drawn on to support 1 310 ventures promoted by SMEs and 160 small-scale infrastructural works carried out by local authorities.

The EIB was founded in 1958 by the Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, for the purpose of fostering integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion in the Member States, by means of long-term financing for capital investment contributing to attainment of the European Union's objectives. Global loans, a facility created by the EIB in 1968, are lines of credit made available to banks and other financial intermediaries on a national, regional or local scale, which then onlend the funds, in the form of smaller sub-loans, to support small and medium-scale investment schemes meeting the EIB's eligibility criteria.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 29 March 1997, when ECU 1 = 165.605 ESP, 0.71 GBP, 0.74 IEP, 1.61 USD.