The European Investment Bank (EIB) announces the signature of finance contracts with Crédit Agricole for two loans to support small and medium-scale investment schemes in France.

A global loan for FRF 200 million to foster environmental protection in Seine-Normandie:

The EIB is advancing a global loan for FRF 200 million (ECU 30 million)(1) to Caisse Nationale de Crédit Agricole (CNCA) for financing environmental protection schemes undertaken chiefly by SMEs in the area covered by the Agence de l'eau Seine-Normandie.

The sub-loans to be made available from the EIB funds will go towards investment by businesses designed to reduce industrial pollution or water consumption. Financing for such projects, analysed from the technical angle by the Agence de l'eau Seine-Normandie itself, will be deployed by Crédit Agricole's 14 Caisses Régionales operating in the area covered by the Agence and will complement aid being provided by the latter. A public organisation established under the Act of 16 December 1964, the Agence de l'eau Seine-Normandie covers an area of 100 000 km2 containing a population of about 17 million and accounting for some 40% of industrial activity in France.

The agreements governing the partnership between the EIB, Crédit Agricole and the Agence de l'eau for this operation were signed today by Ms Ariane Obolensky, EIB Vice-President, Mr Jean Laurent, Deputy Managing Director of Caisse Nationale du Crédit Agricole, and Mr Tesnières-Buchot, Managing Director of the Agence de l'eau Seine-Normandie.

This EIB loan forms part of the action by the European Union's financing institution to underpin environmental protection in Europe, an objective to which the Bank devotes nearly one third of its lending within the EU, amounting to a figure of more than ECU 28 billion over the past five years. The funds have gone chiefly into water resource management projects and improvements to the quality of life in urban areas (9 billion respectively).

The operation in question comes under the Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP) set up by the EIB in November 1997 to foster investment and employment in Europe. The purpose of ASAP is to target a substantial share of EIB financing towards labour intensive projects in the health and education sectors, environmental protection and urban renewal. To date, ASAP has resulted in some fifty financing commitments by the EIB in these fields, totalling more than ECU 6 billion and involving all the European Union Member States. The Programme also includes a special component geared towards providing SMEs with greater access to venture capital, in liaison with the banking community : eleven operations, for an aggregate amount of ECU 384 million, as well as establishment of the European Technology Facility - endowed with ECU 125 million by the EIB and being administered by the European Investment Fund (EIF) - go to show that this ASAP "SME window" is already producing tangible results.

A global loan for FRF one billion for financing small and medium-scale schemes:

The EIB is also making a new global loan available to CNCA for FRF 1 billion (ECU 152 million) in favour of local infrastructural schemes (environmental protection, transport, links with trans-European networks, etc.) carried out by public authorities, as well as SME investment projects, especially those located in assisted areas. Representing the first instalment under an ECU 2 billion loan authorisation, this operation will be the eighth concluded by the EIB with Crédit Agricole since 1990, for a total of FRF 7.4 billion.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31 March 1998, when ECU 1 = FRF 6.65, GBP 0.64.