The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending nearly FIM 900 million (ECU 151 million) for motorways, hydro-power and an icebreaker in Finland. Of this, FIM 500 million will part finance investment in the Arctic region (Objective 6), eligible for EU structural assistance.

The loans were signed on the occasion of the first official visit from an EIB delegation to Northern Finland.

Investment being supported includes FIM 80 million (ECU 14 million) for the construction of a section of the E4 motorway linking Kemi and Tornio near the Swedish border. The motorway is a key link in the chain of Trans-European transport networks and crucial for trade and communications links in Lapland.

A loan equivalent to FIM 155 million (ECU 27 million) has been granted for a custom-built multi-purpose icebreaker being constructed for the Finnish Maritime Administration. This is the first EIB loan contract to incorporate disbursement in Euro. The 100 meter ship is being built at the Rauma shipyard. Scheduled for commissioning in 1998, the icebreaker will enhance the safety and reliability of shipping links between Finland and its neighbours, vital for the region's industrial development.

Construction works on the new hydro-power plant of Kelukoski on the Kitinen river and the upgrading of hydro-electric generating units on the Kemijoki river are being supported with FIM 250 million (ECU 47 million). The finance goes to Kemijoki Oy, the main producer of hydro-electricity in Lapland.

The icebreaker and infrastructure loans were signed by Minister Arja Alho, Ministry of Finance, and EIB Vice President Claes de Neergaard. Commenting on the Arctic loans, Claes de Neergaard said: "This financing underlines the Bank's commitment to supporting regional development, also in Finland. The EIB will, in co-operation with the Finnish authorities, seek to step up gradually its activities in Northern Finland in support of projects that will encourage economic development".

On the same occasion, the EIB signed a FIM 400 million (ECU 68 million) loan for road and motorway schemes in Southern Finland, including the Hämeenlinna-Tampere arterial road.

Between 1994-1996, EIB lending in Finland totalled FIM 3.2 billion (over ECU 540 million), mainly for communications infrastructure improvements and industrial projects. The EIB also supported investment by small and medium sized enterprises with ECU 85 million, in co-operation with financial intermediaries in Finland.

(1) 30/3/1997: 1 ECU = 5,79552 FIM, 0.71 GBP.