The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term financing institution, has concluded a EUR 150 million financing arrangement with NIB Capital Bank (NIBC ) to support the activities of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The finance, in the form of a global loan, basically a line of credit, will be used by NIBC to finance investments by SMEs in the industry and services, as well as small-scale projects in the areas of energy and environment. Projects will mainly be located in the Netherlands but can also include other European Union countries.

The finance will support investment that will increase the productivity and competitive capacity of SMEs and contribute to growth and employment. Projects ensuring a more rational use of energy and safeguarding the environment can also benefit. NIB Capital Bank (previously De Nationale Investeringsbank), a merchant bank based in The Hague, The Netherlands, enjoys a strong presence in the financing of projects by small and medium-scaled companies, in particular in the Benelux region. It is therefore well positioned to act as an intermediary for the execution of EIB's support to the SME sector.

The EIB aims at helping improve the financial environment for SMEs in Europe. Acting in close partnership with Europe's financial and banking community, the EIB Group - consisting of the EIB and the European Investment Fund (EIF), its specialist subsidiary for the provision of venture capital and guarantees in support of SMEs - is able to offer European small businesses the full range of financing instruments required to promote their development. In 2001, the EIB made available EUR 5.2 billion under global loan financing for some 24 000 small businesses. In addition, the EIF concluded some 40 SME portfolio guarantee operations totalling about EUR 960 million. Small businesses are also included in the EIF's venture capital operations.

In 2001, EIB loan signatures in the Netherlands totalled EUR 787 million of which 213 million in the form of global loan arrangements.

The EIB is owned by the Member States of the European Union. It was set up in 1958 to finance capital investment furthering EU policy objectives, and, though a not for profit organisation, it is self-financing, raising its funds by borrowing on capital markets (AAA issuer).

The EIB's key policy objectives are financing: regional development; the trans-European networks in transport, telecom and energy; knowledge and R&D intensive industries; improved international competitiveness of industry; small and medium sized enterprises; environmental protection; secure energy supplies; and health and education. It also provides finance outside the EU and the Accession Countries within certain limits as part of the EU's co-operation and development policies.