The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, has advanced a global loan of 2 billion pesetas (ECU 12.7 million)(1) to the Institut Català de Finances (ICF) towards financing investment projects promoted by small and medium-sized enterprises in industry, tourism and the service sector, as well as smaller-scale environmental and energy-sector schemes. The finance contract was signed on 25 July in Barcelona by EIB Vice-President Dr Luis Martí Espluga and the Managing Director of ICF Dr Ernest Sena i Calabuig.

This is the EIB's first operation with the Institut Català de Finances and is targeted specifically towards financing projects in Catalonia. The schemes financed will meet a number of European Union objectives: enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs, making more rational use of energy, developing or diversifying sources of energy, protecting the environment and combating pollution.

Last year the EIB concluded 8 global loans with eight Spanish financial institutions, which went to finance 1 310 ventures undertaken 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 30/6/1997, when ECU 1 = 0.68 GBP, 6.64 FRF, 1.13 USD, 0.75 IEP, 166.486 ESP.