In its mission to support the economic transformation in the Central and Eastern European countries and their integration with the European Union, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Union's long-term financing institution, is providing ECU 20 million (1) to the Ventspils Port Authority (VPA) for upgrading Latvia's largest sea-port.

The loan will help to improve access to the port through dredging works on the channel entrance and in the river-harbour in order to accommodate larger vessels, as well as the related reconstructing and strengthening of the river quay. The investments should help Ventspils Port to retain its role as an important shipping gateway for Latvia and for transit traffic to and from Russia and other CIS States.

Since 1993, the EIB has lent a total of ECU 51 million in Latvia. In addition to the modernisation of Ventspils port, the Bank mainly financed the upgrading of the water and wastewater network in and around Riga and hydro-power generation on Daugava river. 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.

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 1997-2000 earmarks another ECU 3.52 billion for loans in the region. In addition, the EIB will also create, at the request of the Council of Ministers, 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 30/6/1997, when ECU 1 = 0.68 GBP, 6.64 FRF, 1.13 USD, 0.75 IEP, 0.658486 LVL.