The European Investment Bank is lending 400 million Dutch guilders (ECU 182 million)(1) to the Province of Gelderland for upgrading dikes along the rivers Rhine, Waal, IJssel and Meuse to protect the area against flooding. Strengthening the dikes along these rivers is a national priority and of particular importance for Gelderland since the high water levels of 1993 and 1995, which severely affected the safety of major river dike sections.

The project includes the raising and widening of a total of 300 km of dikes including some 90 km of extremely weak sections, their reinforcement being covered by emergency legislation introduced immediately after the 1995 record high water levels. The dike strengthening schemes in Gelderland represent about 50% of all works to be carried out along these rivers in the country by the year 2000. The works will be carried out by Water Authorities, which are public bodies charged with water management.

By lowering the risk of flooding in the Province of Gelderland, the project will substantially increase the safety and quality of life of some 1.3 million people in this densely populated area. It will also ensure the commercial future of the region and safeguard the significant transit activities in the province which is strategically located in the East of the Netherlands between the Port of Rotterdam and Germany. The statistical forecast failure rate of the upgraded dikes will be less than once in 1 250 years, against a rate of once in 100 years for the weakest dike sections in 1995.

Commenting on the loan, EIB Vice-President Rudolf de Korte recalled that after the very high water levels, when some 200 000 people in the Province of Gelderland had to be evacuated, the EIB had expressed its willingness to contribute towards financing reinforcement of river dikes in the Netherlands and elsewhere along rivers within the European Union. Similar projects have already benefited from EIB funding in the Union as well as in third countries. Protecting and improving the European citizen's physical safety and their quality of life is an EU policy objective strongly supported by the EIB.

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 European Union policy objectives. In 1996 alone it provided capital investment financing amounting to ECU 23.2 billion, around 90% of this going to projects in European Union countries. The Bank also operates outside the EU within the framework of the Union's cooperation policy. Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB raises the resources for its lending on the capital markets, where its bond issues are systematically awarded the top "AAA" rating.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31 March 1997, when ECU 1 = GBP 0.71, NLG 2.20.