The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing arm, is providing UAB Bité GSM, the private mobile telephone operator in Lithuania, with a loan of ECU 7 million (1) for expanding the mobile telephone network. This follows an ECU 15 million loan extended last year and brings the total EIB support to Bité's investments in mobile telecommunication to ECU 22 million.

Commenting on the loan, EIB Vice President Wolfgang Roth said: 'The EIB is a major lender for telecommunication investments in the Central and Eastern European countries, helping them to develop fixed and mobile networks on a cost-effective and durable basis, improving their communications links and facilitating their integration with the European Union.'

The loan signed today brings EIB lending in Lithuania to ECU 108 million. Previous loans contributed to the financing of a wide range of infrastructure projects, in particular port, roads, airport, railways and gas.. The EIB is also assisting the development of small and medium-size enterprises through its global loans (credit lines) to the Lithuanian banking sector.

The EIB has advanced some ECU 5.5 billion for investment projects in 11 central and Eastern European countries since 1990. Under a mandate covering the years 1997 to 1999 the Bank is lending another ECU 3.5 billion in this region. In addition to this, the EIB, at the request of the Council of Ministers, will also create a substantial pre-accession lending facility to support preparation of EU membership.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtain.