The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term credit institution, announces its first loan for a project in the FYR of Macedonia. The ECU 70 million loan to the Republic will help build two motorway stretches, 36 km on the E65 between Skopje and Tetovo in the Northwest of the country, and 31 km on the E75 to the Southeast, between Stobi and Demir Kapija. The project estimated to cost ECU 141.5 million is also expected to receive ECU 40 million from the European Union's grant aid programme PHARE.

The Co-operation Agreement between the European Union and the FYR of Macedonia, which entered into force at the beginning of 1998, foresees EIB loans of ECU 150 million for road and railway projects over three years. In this context EIB loans carry a 2% interest rate subsidy provided by the EU budget.

The loan agreement was signed today in Gevgelija by the Macedonian Minister of Transport, Mr. Abdulmenaf Bedzeti, and EIB Vice-president Mr. Panagiotis Gennimatas.

The development of the motorway network should facilitate international traffic and foster exports, both key factors for the resumption of growth in the FYR of Macedonia. The road sections financed by the EIB are situated on the European Corridors VIII and X selected for development by successive Pan-European Transport Ministers Conferences.

The EIB is the main provider of funds for transport schemes in Central Europe, helping the countries in the region to develop internal and external communications on a cost-effective and durable basis and linking them up with the trans-European networks (TENs) of the Union.

Since it started lending in the Central European countries, the EIB has provided over ECU 7.5 billion for projects in Poland (nearly 1.9 billion), the Czech Republic (nearly 1.8 billion), Hungary (nearly 1.3 billion), Romania (over 1 billion), Slovakia (615 million), Bulgaria (386 million), Slovenia (195 million), Lithuania (148 million), Estonia (88 million), FYR of Macedonia (70 million), Albania (68 million) and Latvia (51 million). For the period 1998-99 some ECU 5.5 billion were earmarked for projects in twelve countries in the region.

Conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30/06/1998, when 1 ECU = 1.98 DEM, 0.66 GBP,1.09590 USD, 60.9134 MKD.