The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing institution of the European Union (EU), announces a global loan for ESP 20 billion (ECU 120 million) (1) made available to Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBV) for funding small and medium-scale investment schemes, mainly in the areas of infrastructure and the environment.

This is the largest line of credit ever opened by the EIB with a private financial institution in Spain. It is especially geared to funding schemes promoted by local authorities involving investment both in small and medium-scale infrastructure and in environmental protection and anti-pollution measures.

For the first time, investment in the fields of health, education and housing, the latter in the framework of urban development, will be eligible for funding under this loan. These are new areas for the EIB, recently approved by its Board of Governors in response to the Amsterdam "Resolution on Growth and Employment", pinpointing these fields as priority sectors which both strengthen the EU's economic and social cohesion and contribute to the creation of stable jobs.

The EIB was created in 1958 by the founding treaty of the European Economic Community, the Treaty of Rome. It was set up to contribute to the integrated and balanced development of the Member States of the Union, as well as to their economic and social cohesion, by providing long-term finance for capital investment fulfilling EU objectives. First devised by the EIB in 1968, global loans are essentially lines of credit opened with banks and other national, regional and local financial intermediaries, which deploy the proceeds in the form of sub-loans targeted in favour of 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 31/12/1997: 40.7675 BEF, 6.61 FRF, 167.388 ESP, 0.67 GBP.