The European Investment Bank has granted a global loan(1) for NLG 100 million (ECU 45 million) (2) to Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten (BNG) for financing small and medium-scale capital projects in education and the health sector.

The loan comes under the Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP), the EIB's response to the invitation made by the European Council at its Amsterdam meeting on 16 and 17 June for the Bank to contribute to creating job opportunities in the European Union by financing capital projects. ASAP is to be presented by the EIB to the European Heads of State or Government at the Luxembourg special employment summit on 21 and 22 November. It covers the financing of investment in the education and health sectors, innovative and growth-oriented small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), together with the extension of lending for urban renewal and other environmental projects and major infrastructure networks. In particular, a special facility is being set up to provide venture capital for high-technology and growth-oriented SMEs, which will involve cooperation between the EIB, the European Investment Fund (EIF) (3) and the banking community.

In the presence of Mr A. P. W. Melkert, the Minister for Social Affairs and Employment, the finance contract was signed in The Hague on Friday 14 November by Mr P. P. van Besouw, the President of BNG's Executive Board, and Mr R. W. de Korte, EIB Vice-President. Rudolf de Korte pointed out in particular that, with this loan, the EIB is arranging, for the first time in the Netherlands, the financing of capital projects in the labour-intensive sectors of education and health care. At the same time he stressed the importance which the EIB attaches to further extending cooperation with Dutch banks in order to achieve the objectives referred to in the context of ASAP.

During the past five years the EIB has provided loans in the Netherlands worth more than NLG 4.4 billion, of which over NLG 1.5 billion in the form of global loans for intermediary banks, including NLG 150 million to BNG for financing public infrastructural schemes.

The EIB, the financing institution of the European Union (EU), was created by the Treaty of Rome in order to finance capital projects contributing towards one or more of the following EU objectives: fostering the economic development of less favoured regions; creating or upgrading major European infrastructure networks in transport and telecommunications (trans-European networks); enhancing the international competitiveness and European integration of industry; strengthening the position of SMEs; safeguarding the environment and the quality of life; and attaining the Union's energy objectives. Outside the European Union, the Bank participates in implementing European development policy in accordance with the terms of the various agreements which the Union has concluded with some 130 countries. The EIB raises most of the funds which it requires for its lending activities on the international capital markets.

(1) Global loans are credit lines from the EIB to banks or other financial institutions within and outside the European Union used to finance projects of modest size undertaken by SMEs and/or local authorities. The EIB currently has cooperation agreements of this kind in the European Union with some 130 banks, which are all in close contact with and have a thorough knowledge of local businesses and the local authorities.

(2) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1997, when ECU 1 = NLG 2.21, GBP 0.69, IEP 0.76, USD 1.11.

(3) The EIF was set up in 1994 to provide guarantees for the financing of trans-European infrastructure networks (TENs) and SME projects. The Fund also acquires equity participations in companies which specialise in financing SMEs and TENs. The EIF's shareholders are the EIB (with a 40% stake), the European Commission (30%) and some 80 banks (30%).