The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is granting a loan of EUR 100 million(1) towards the financing of two sections of the Orizovo-Burgas motorway in Bulgaria. The Finance contract was signed in Sofia by representatives of the Bank and of the Bulgarian Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works.

The project, covering a total of 75km of the Trakia motorway from the capital Sofia to the port of Burgas in the Black Sea, is part of the main Bulgarian east-west road axis. The motorway forms part of "Priority Corridor VIII" of the Pan-European Road Network for Central and Eastern Europe. It is also a major priority for the development of the road sector at national level, as it will link Sofia and the three other main cities of the country: Plovdiv, Burgas and indirectly Varna. The project is designed to improve traffic conditions and reduce the negative impacts of congestion and pollution caused by through-traffic in many urban centres.

Bulgaria's recent investment in roads has been mainly directed towards the rehabilitation of the existing network and has benefited from substantial EIB support. Since 1990, overall EIB lending to Bulgaria amounts to EUR 799 million, including projects in transport (road, railway, air), telecommunications, energy and environmental sectors, the expansion of a copper plant at Pirdop and credit lines for financing medium and small investment projects through local banks.

The EIB, established in 1958 by the Treaty of Rome, finances capital investment projects which further the European Union (EU) policy objectives. It also participates in the implementation of the EU's co-operation policy towards third countries that have co-operation or association agreements with the Union.

Since 1990, more than EUR 10 billion has been 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 EUR: 0.6323 GBP, BGL 1.95583