The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long term lending institution, is providing an additional ECU 75 million (1) for upgrading the Czech section of the Berlin-Prague-Vienna railway line. The loan to C'eské Dràhy s.o., the Czech state railway company, will help finance the renewal of tracks, bridges and tunnels, the electrification of 75 km of track, the modernisation of stations, a new communications and train control system, as well as environmental protection measures. It brings total EIB financing for this project to ECU 200 million. With ECU 200 million granted last year for upgrading the 216 km Czech stretch of the Warsaw-Ostrava-Vienna railroad, EIB lending for railroad modernisation in the Czech Republic now totals ECU 400 million.

Since 1992, the EIB has lent a total of ECU 1 067 million in the Czech Republic. In addition to the railway schemes, the Bank is financing the upgrading of the telecommunications and road networks, desulphurisation of several lignite fired power stations and the modernisation and expansion of the Skoda car factory, as well as an independent power plant primarily serving Skoda automobilova. The EIB also assisted the development of small and medium-scale manufacturing and tourism ventures through its global loans (credit lines) to selected banks in the country.

Commenting the new loan to the Czech national railway company, EIB Vice-president Wolfgang Roth said: 'Our continuous support for this project highlights again the importance of EIB's role in financing trans-European transport networks (TENs) preparing the Czech Republic's future membership in the European Union.'

The EIB was established in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome and is the European Union's long-term financing institution. In 1996, the Bank provided loans totalling ECU 23.2 billion. Nearly 5 per cent of this was for projects in eleven Central and Eastern European countries: Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Between 1990 and the end of 1996, the EIB lent nearly ECU 5 billion to projects in these countries. A new mandate for the years 1997-99 earmarks another ECU 3.52 for loans in the region. In addition to this specific mandate, the EIB, at the request of the EU's Council of Ministers, will also create a substantial pre-accession lending facility to support preparations for EU-membership.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 3/03/1997 , when 1 ECU  = 0.71 GBP, 6.58 FRF , 1.16 USD, 0.74 IEP, 33,9249 CZK.