The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is lending up to ECU 225 million (NLG 500 million(1)) to the City of Amsterdam for the development of the new district "IJburg" on 6 islands to be reclaimed in the IJ-lake, adjacent to the city centre. The loan, which is being made under the Bank's "Amsterdam Special Action Programme" (ASAP), concerns the first phase of the project, including reclamation of the first two islands, construction of dikes as well as basic road infrastructure, public transport and utilities.

Commenting on the loan, the EIB President, Sir Brian Unwin, said: "I am particularly pleased to be able to sign here in Amsterdam the first direct loan in the Netherlands under the Bank's special ASAP programme. It is at the heart of that programme, in that it will help to provide jobs and the basis for future growth and, in an environmentally friendly way, by contributing to an important project of urban development".

The IJburg project will contribute to Amsterdam's urban development by extending part of the conurbation eastwards in response to urgent and substantial demand for new accommodation close to Amsterdam. When completed, IJburg will create space for some 18 000 dwellings, housing a total of some 45 000 inhabitants. By providing new land for housing, recreational and other uses near to the city centre, the scheme will help to limit long-distance commuting and its negative impact on road congestion and air quality.

The project also encompasses major environmental improvement works, in particular cleaning up the "Diemerzeedijk" area, a former derelict solid waste dumping area, and transforming it into a nature reserve and recreation area, as well as compensatory environmental measures such as the creation of wetlands along an extended shoreline to the east of IJburg to ensure protected breeding areas for bird colonies. The reclamation works will employ environment-friendly techniques designed to increase water flow speeds, thereby offering major benefits for the aquatic environment.

Development of the IJburg district will boost employment, both directly and indirectly, in the Amsterdam area. It falls within one of the priority sectors - improvement of the urban environment - of the EIB's ASAP, launched in mid-1997 at the request of the Amsterdam Summit in June 1997 to encourage job-creating investment underpinning the European Union's growth and employment policies. The three-year ASAP aims to promote investment in health, education, urban renewal and environmental protection, and also includes new venture capital facilities deployed through instruments specifically geared to high-growth, innovative SMEs, as well as additional support for large infrastructural schemes.

EIB lending in the Netherlands over the past ten years (1988-1997) ran to ECU 3.4 billion, of which ECU 2.5 billion went through individual loans to large investment projects in industry, infrastructure, environmental protection and the energy sector. The balance was advanced through global loans made available to intermediary banks for investment by over 925 small and medium-sized enterprises and over 20 small infrastructural schemes by local authorities.

(1) As at 31/03/98, ECU 1 = NLG 2.24, GBP 0.64, IEP 0.79.