The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is lending ECU 100 million to Slovenské Telekomunikàcie, s.p., Slovakia's national telecommunications company, for the expansion and digitalisation of the country's telecommunications network. The funds will help finance a long-term investment programme for increasing telephone density to 35 lines per 100 inhabitants and the digitalisation rate to 78 per cent by the year 2000. In 1993, the EIB has granted SP an ECU 65 million loan for the first phase of the investment programme.

Commenting on the loans, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth said: 'Upgrading and expanding the Slovak telecommunications network improves opportunities for economic development in the country. The EIB is the major financier of telecommunications infrastructure in the central and eastern European countries. As in the field of transport and energy, the Bank is playing a key role for the development of efficient trans-European telecommunications networks (TENs) in the region.'

The present loan brings total EIB financing in Slovakia to nearly ECU 500 million. Previous EIB loans mainly contributed to the modernisation of the road and telephone networks, for gas storage facilities as well as for the air-traffic control system. A number of small and medium-scale industrial and tourism ventures were also financed through an EIB global loan made available to the Slovak banking network.

The EIB finances projects in Slovakia under authorisations by its Board of Governors, i.e. the fifteen EU Ministers of Finance representing the Bank's members. For the period 1997-99 loans up to a ceiling of ECU 3.5 billion are available for projects in Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In addition, the EIB will shortly launch a substantial 'Pre-Accession Facility' to help a dozen countries in the region prepare for EU membership some time after the turn of the century.

The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1997, when ECU 1 = GBP 0.69, IEP 0.76, USD 1.113, SKK 37.6918.