The President of the European Investment Bank, Sir Brian Unwin, today signed in Ljubljana with Mr Joze Brodnik, President of DARS (Druzba za avtoceste v Republiki Sloveniji), the state motorway company, a memorandum of understanding concerning an ECU 130 million facility (1) (some 24 billion tolar) for a major motorway project. DARS will use the EIB funds for building a 20 km motorway section between Sentjakob and Blagovica, north-east of Ljubljana. Slovenia's East-West motorway forms part of Priority Corridor V of the Trans-European Road Network from Italy to Ukraine, through Slovenia, Hungary and Slovakia, and was earmarked for urgent upgrading in the Pan-European conferences on transport in Crete and Helsinki.

This is the seventh motorway project in Slovenia implemented with the help of the EIB since 1978 and brings total EIB lending for transport projects in Slovenia (road and rail) to ECU 580 million.

At the signature, Sir Brian Unwin said: "This is a crucial project that will improve part of a key international trans-European communications corridor, helping to link Slovenia's road network with that of the European Union and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The investment will help reduce congestion and pollution around Ljubljana and improve road safety. Development of a modern motorway network is vital for underpinning economic activity in Slovenia and the facility is part of the EIB's special programme for helping Slovenia and other countries in the region prepare for membership of the European Union."

Between 1990 and 1997 the EIB has made available ECU 6.3 billion in eleven Central and Eastern European countries: Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Between 1998 and 2000, the EIB will provide a further ECU 5.5 billion of loans to the region, part of which is in the form of a special Pre-Accession Facility to give further help to the candidate countries in the region and Cyprus in their preparation for European Union membership.

(1) On 31 December 1997, 1 ECU = DEM 1.98; USD 1.10; GBP 0.67; SIT 186.81.