The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing institution of the European Union (EU), announces loans totalling EUR 50.6 million(1) to the"Groupe Chimique Tunisien" (GCT) for the landfill disposal of phospatic gypsum, a waste produced in the manufacture of phosphate-based fertilisers at GCT's plant in Gabès.

The funds are being advanced to GCT, the borrower and project promoter, as follows: EUR 45 million is being lent directly and a further EUR 5.6 million indirectly via the Industrial Pollution Abatement Fund, FODEP, under an earlier loan concluded with the Republic of Tunisia for in the form of a credit line for financing environmental protection schemes undertaken by manufacturing firms. GCT is an export-orientated enterprise which processes 6.2 million tonnes of phosphate rock per annum (i.e. more than 80% of the rock mined in Tunisia) to produce phosphoric acid, a number of chemical fertilisers and other phosphate derivatives. Wholly owned by the Republic of Tunisia and commanding a workforce of 4 200, GCT is one of the most important industrial concerns in the country.

The project is designed to safeguard the environment by putting an end to the discharge of 4.4 million tonnes of gypsum a year into the Mediterranean on the Gulf of Gabès. It involves the design, development and commissioning of a landfill site, as well as the construction of a 15 km pipeline system together with a pumping station for transporting to the site gypsum waste currently discharged into the sea.

This financing package from the EIB, concluded under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, represents the Bank's third operation in support of reducing pollution in the Gulf of Gabès and, on the strength of its environmental merits, attracts a 3% interest subsidy from EU budgetary resources. The EIB has already contributed to Tunisia's National Environment Plan aimed at cleaning up the Gulf, through three loans totalling EUR 92.6 million given over not only to reducing GCT's atmospheric emissions and setting in place associated gypsum land disposal facilities but also to constructing wastewater treatment plants in three towns on the Gulf of Gabès.

The EIB plays a leading role in implementing the EU's "Euro-Mediterranean Partnership" and achieving its priority objectives. In this context a new mandate has been established for the period 1997-2000 to finance to the tune of EUR 2 310 million capital projects in the 12 non-member Mediterranean Countries signatories to cooperation and/or association agreements with the Union. The Framework Contract governing Bank activity in Tunisia under this mandate was signed in July 1997 and has led, to date,  to lending from the EIB totalling EUR 321 million in this country. Since the Bank first started lending in this country in 1978, it has provided EUR 910 million in all, including more than EUR 80 million in risk capital, for funding projects in the industrial, agricultural-processing transport and environmental sectors.

(1) 1 euro: 1.27070 TND, 0.666300 GBP.