The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing global loans (credit lines) totalling EUR 110 million(1) to partner banks in four Central European candidates for EU membership: Estonia, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The banks will use EIB's long-term funds for financing small and medium-scale private and municipal projects in the field of environmental protection, energy saving, infrastructure, industry and tourism:

  • in Estonia, Union Bank of Estonia (Eesti Ühispank) receives EUR 20 million which is already its second global loan from the EIB;
  • in Slovakia and Bulgaria EUR 30 million and EUR 20 million respectively are going to HypoVereinsbank. In both cases these are the first EIB global loans granted directly to a commercial bank established in the country;
  • in Hungary, Bank Austria Creditanstalt Group is receiving a third global loan of EUR 40 million.

Commenting on the new global loans, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth said: 'In line with the EIB's specific role to assist the ten Central European candidates for EU membership, our global loans make available suitable long-term funds to financial intermediaries operating at a national or regional level. Whenever possible and appropriate, we make these long-term funds available not only in foreign but also in local currency. Our funding will support the financial viability of smaller scale projects while adding long-term finance in the Central European countries, an important element for the diversification of their financial systems."

The Accession Partnerships between the candidates for membership and the EU specifically foresee investment support on compliance with Community norms in fields such as environmental protection and the development of small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs). In Central Europe, as in the EU, the EIB finances large projects with direct loans and smaller schemes through suitable intermediary banks, by means of so-called global loans. The four new global loans bring to EUR 332 million the total granted in 1999 in the form of global loans. Since 1990, the EIB provided global loans totalling EUR 1.3 billion (about 13 percent of total lending) to some 35 intermediary banks in the ten accession countries. The EIB intends to provide further global loans to suitable partner banks in Central Europe. Inside the EU, global loans represent about one third of EIB lending.

The EIB was set up in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome to lend to projects furthering European Union policies. While strengthening weaker EU regions has always been its main goal, the Bank also lends to projects outside the European Union under the Union's co-operation policy toward third countries. Since 1990, more than EUR 10 billion were lent to projects in the ten Central European countries which have applied for EU membership. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises the bulk of its funds on the capital markets worldwide where its bond issues regularly benefit from the Bank's `AAA' credit rating.

(1) 1 euro= 0.647500 GBP, 4.36870 PLN.