The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing a global loan for ECU 45 million (100 million Dutch guilders)(1) to SNS bank Nederland N.V. This finance will support long-term investment by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in industry and the service sector and small-scale ventures in health and education undertaken by local authorities, institutions responsible for the provision of public services and other public entities. Today's global loan is the first to SNS bank which has long-standing experience in financing SMEs throughout the country and is active in the funding of projects in education and health, particularly secondary schools, institutions of higher education, hospitals and homes for the elderly. SNS bank Nederland is the fifth largest private Dutch bank in terms of total assets and has its headquarters in Den Bosch.

As the European Union's financing institution, the EIB traditionally supports the activities of SMEs within the Union. Their generally small-scale investment projects are financed through global loan arrangements with intermediary banks at local, regional or European level, combining the EIB's ability to borrow funds on capital markets on very fine terms and the intermediaries' on-the-spot familiarity with potential operations and the actual needs of local businesses. Under global loan facilities, small-scale public investment projects in urban renewal, environmental protection, education and health can also be financed. The latter two areas are relatively new fields eligible for EIB funding, introduced as such under the Bank's "Amsterdam Special Action Programme" (ASAP). This programme was set up in November 1997 to foster investment and employment by directing a substantial part of EIB lending towards labour-intensive projects in, for instance, education and health or towards schemes placing particular emphasis on educational needs or environmental protection. ASAP also includes facilities providing high technology and growth-oriented SMEs with greater access to venture capital, deployed in liaison with the European Investment Fund and the banking community.

Over the past ten years, the EIB has approved over ECU 3.4 billion for projects in the Netherlands, including up to ECU 1 billion under allocations from global loans for investment projects by some 925 SMEs and over 20 small-scale public infrastructure projects, such as road schemes, environmental projects, urban renewal and the development of business areas.

(1) Conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 June 1998 when ECU 1 = NLG 2,23.