The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term lending institution, is making available up to ECU 215 million (GRD 66.7 billion) (1) for the construction of the Eastern section of the Egnatia motorway (Egnatia) in Macedonia and Thrace regions of Northen Greece.

The financing agreements were signed today in Thessaloniki for the Hellenic Republic by Mr Chr. Pachtas, Deputy Minister of National Economy and for the EIB by Mr P. Gennimatas, Vice-President. The signing ceremony took place in the presence of Mr. K. Laliotis, Minister of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works and Mr. Ph. Petsanlikos, Minister of Macedonia-Thrace, as well as officials of EGNATIA ODOS S.A. (EGNATIA).

Egnatia is the major West-East link between Italy (port of Brindisi), Western Greece (port of Igoumenitsa), the Balkan countries and Turkey (Alexandroupolis-Kipi border crossing). The Hellenic Authorities as well as the EIB regard Egnatia as of exceptional importance. Further to the direct economic benefits in terms of savings in journey time and fewer road accidents, Egnatia is of vital importance for the development and the opening-up of international communications in the region and Greece as a whole. The project is included on the Trans-European Network (TEN) priority investments list, as a major trunckroute, whose Eastern section serves mainly Thrace and it will improve links with Turkey. It is therefore supported jointly by the Union structural funds (ERDF and the Cohesion Fund) and the EIB.

EIB Vice-President P. Gennimatas said: "Efficient transport networks are particularly important for countries such as Greece, whose peripheral location is a challenge for European integration. The Bank's support for this Trans-European Network project is fully in line with the objectives fixed recently at the Amsterdam European Council to stimulate economic activity through large infrastructure financing. Our action underlines the key role the EIB is playing in the Union's growth initiative, helping to co-finance major infrastructure projects with the public and private sectors ".

EGNATIA, is a joint stock company totally owned by the Hellenic Republic, formed specifically for designing, constructing, extending, maintaining, operating, administrating, supervising and monitoring the Egnatia motorway and the road network feeding into it for next 50 years. It is assisted by Brown & Root (UK), as Project Manager. Construction management has been contracted to an international consortium, EGNACONSULT Joint Venture, comprising three companies/ Dorsch Consult (Germany), Scetauroute (France) and Ado (Greece).

Works at the Eastern part include the construction of a by-pass of the town of Kavala and the upgrading of the Komotini-Turkish border at Kipi section in Thrace.

The European Investment Bank was set up by the Treaty of Rome in 1958 to provide long-term loans for capital investment furthering European Integration. Owned by the EU Member States, the Bank raises most of its resources on capital markets. In 1996 the Bank made loans totalling ECU 21.5 billion of which ECU 700 million  (GRD 217.4 billion) in Greece. EIB remains the largest single financier of TENs, having lent some ECU 33 billion for this purpose since 1993 for capital investment representing over ECU 120 billion. Examples of EIB TENs financing covers a whole variety of projects ranging from TGV systems in Northern Europe and Italy, to the Øresund link between Denmark and Sweden, and gas pipelines in Greece and between North Africa and Spain and Italy.Since the accession of Greece, the EIB has advanced ECU 1 913.5 million (GRD 594 billion) to support the improvement of the Greek transport network. The Bank has financed road and rail links along all the main transport axes of the country, such as the motorways PATHE, EGNATIA and Corinth-Tripoli, the railway line Athens-Idomeni, Athens Metro, the New Athens International Airport " Eleftherios Venizelos" the Rio-Antirio bridge, and the Athens peripheral motorway. EIB finance has also gone towards improvement of interregional and regional road links, as well as the modernisation of ten regional airports and nine ports.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1997, when ECU 1 = GBP 0.69, IEP 0.76, USD 1.113, GRD 310.728.