The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing institution of the European Union (EU), has advanced jointly to Banco Central Hispanoamericano (BCH) and Hispamer Banco Financiero a global loan for ESP 20 billion (ECU 119 million)(1) for financing small and medium-scale projects undertaken by private enterprises and public bodies (mainly local authorities).

This is a multipurpose loan geared to financing ventures meeting one of the following EU objectives: increased productivity and competitiveness of SMEs; more efficient use of energy and development or diversification of energy sources; environmental protection and reduction of pollution; investment in small and medium-scale infrastructure; and promotion of health, education and housing schemes, the latter in the framework of urban renewal.

The finance contract provides that the projects may be undertaken in Spain or any other EU country.

Health, education and housing, which also qualify for financing under this global loan, are new fields of operations for the EIB, recently approved by its Board of Governors in response to the Amsterdam Resolution on Growth and Employment, which pinpoints them as priority sectors strengthening the EU's economic and social fabric and contributing to the creation of stable jobs.

The EIB was created in 1958 by the founding treaty of the European Economic Community, the Treaty of Rome. It was set up to contribute to the integrated and balanced development of the Member States, as well as to their economic and social cohesion, by providing long-term finance for capital investment fulfilling EU objectives. First devised by the EIB in 1968, global loans are essentially lines of credit opened with banks and other national, regional and local financial intermediaries, which deploy the proceeds in the form of sub-loans targeting small and medium-scale ventures meeting the EIB's eligibility criteria.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 31.3.1998 when 1 ECU = 40,98 BEF, 6,65 FRF, 168, 616 ESP, 0,64 GBP.