The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term lending institution is providing ECU 22 million (1) for a 21km section of a new high capacity road between Albania's main port Durrës, and the capital Tirana. The loan agreement was signed in Tirana by EIB Vice-president Mr Panagiotis Gennimatas, Mr. Arben Malaj, Minister of Finance and Mr Gezim Bimbli, General Director of the General Roads Directorate. Vice-President Gennimatas also signed a Framework Agreement with Prime Minister Fatos Nano formalising operational relations between the EIB and Albania.

The loan to the Republic of Albania is for 20 years with a five year grace period. The EU Commission has financed pre-investment studies under its PHARE grant aid programme, which will also provide funding for the construction phase. The project is another step in the building-up of an adequate road network which is essential for economic and social development in Albania. It will improve traffic fluidity and safety on this section of TEN corridor VIII, which is the busiest road link in the country.

The loan brings total EIB financing in Albania to ECU 68 million. Previous loans were for the expansion of the ferry terminal at the port of Durrës, the upgrading of the main road to Skopje and Istanbul and northern Greece and for the electricity transmission network in the South and Southeast of the country. The EIB also provided a global loan (credit line) to Albania's banking sector for financing investments by small and medium-scale companies.

Since it started lending in Central and Eastern Europe in 1990, the EIB has provided nearly 6.3 billion ECU for projects in Poland (1 761 million), the Czech Republic (1 532 million), Hungary (907 million), Slovakia (615 million), Romania (570 million), Bulgaria (346 million), Slovenia (195 million), Lithuania (108 million), Estonia (88 million), Albania (68 million) and Latvia (51 million). For the period January 1998 to January 2000 a total of ECU 5.5 billion has been earmarked for projects in the region.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31.12.1997 : 0.67 GBP, 0.77 IEP, 1.10 USD, 162.72 LEK.