Grants totalling up to ECU 29 million (GRD 8.9 billion)(1), advanced under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, have been arranged by the European Investment Bank (EIB) for firefighting, marine environmental protection and urban development schemes in Greece.
The EEA funds managed by the EIB, the European Union's long-term financing institution, are made available to the Hellenic Republic to be passed on as follows:
- ECU 6.13 million (GRD 1.8 billion) goes to the Ministry of Public Order for firefighting equipment. The project consists of the acquisition of 8 heavy duty-firefighting trucks and 16 amphibious off-road vehicles to improve the Fire Brigade's capacity to fight forest fires. Greek territory is rather fragmented, with low population density in rural areas and a dry climate with large areas of uncultivated land or unmanaged pine forests, which are susceptible to major forest fires. The project forms part of the modernisation programme of the National Fire Service being funded from the European Union's Support Framework II, Cohesion Fund and the EEA Financial Mechanism.
- ECU 12.5 million (GRD 3.9 billion) is being made available to the National Centre for Marine Research (NCMR) for the installation of a marine environment monitoring and surveillance system for Greek waters. The sea surrounding Greece is heavily used by maritime traffic and is exposed to oil spills and marine incidents. The project will contribute to the protection of the marine ecosystem by providing a better understanding of marine dynamics and real time data on traffic, meteorology and climate from a network of data capture stations distributed throughout Greek seas. The environmental improvement will benefit sea transport, commercial fishing, aquaculture farming and tourism.
- ECU 10.35 million (GRD 3.2 billion) is to support urban development in the Municipality of Kalamata. The works comprise a mixture of urban rehabilitation, reorganisation of existing transport networks and construction of a new "ultra-light" tram to run through the centre of the town and its seafront. It is part of the Municipality's General Urban Plan and the reconstruction plan following the earthquakes of 1986. (2)
The grant funds are covering 85% of the total investment costs of the three projects, which are scheduled for completion in 1999.
The Financial Mechanism represents the contribution of the EFTA members of the EEA (3) towards reducing social and economic disparities in the Union. It comprises EIB loans amounting to ECU 1 500 million attracting interest rebates financed by the EFTA countries participating in the EEA, and direct grants of ECU 500 million for investment projects in the island of Ireland, in Greece, Portugal and certain regions of Spain. Priority is given to environmental protection, cultural heritage preservation, transportation as well as education and training.
The participating EFTA countries gave the EIB the mandate to administer the Mechanism. Acting as the channel for the financial assistance provided by the EFTA states, the EIB adds its experience and know-how to ensure that the Financial Mechanism is efficiently implemented and recognised in the Union.
Set up by the Treaty of Rome and operating in the market to provide long-term loans for capital investment furthering European integration, the EIB is the world's largest multilateral financing institution. In 1996 the Bank made loans totalling almost ECU 23.2 billion, of which ECU 0.7 billion (GRD 216 billion) in Greece.
(1) At 31.03.1997 1 ECU=GRD 308.684.
(2) EIB contributed to the reconstruction of Kalamata following the earthquake in 1986 through a loan of EC 100 million to the Ministry of National Economy and to the Hellenic Deposits and Loan Fund.
(3) The Financial Mechanism was set up in 1994 under the Economic Area Agreement (EEA) that extended the Single Market to the then six EFTA states of Austria, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden.