The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending ECU 135 million (NLG 300 million(1)) to the Water Company of the Province of North Holland (N.V. PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord Holland) for modernisation and optimisation of its supply and distribution network. The EIB is supporting this project because it will enhance the quality of life for some 1.8 million of the Province's citizens by providing safe and reliable water supplies. In addition, it will serve a variety of environmental objectives, in particular sustainable management of the company's water extraction area in environmentally sensitive dunes. This EIB loan is being advanced under its Amsterdam Special Action Programme, the Bank's contribution to the European Union's growth and employment initiative.

The project financed by the EIB is part of a 10 year investment programme (1993-2002) and concerns the improvement of the public drinking water supply service virtually throughout the Province of North Holland, which accounts for nearly 10% of the surface area of the Netherlands and 16% of its population. The environmental benefits of the project include sustainable water management of some 7 000 hectares of ecologically highly valuable coastal dunes, the exploitation and environmental protection of which has been entrusted by the Province of North Holland to its water company as this region is an important water collection area for PWN. The dunes will be preserved as a natural area, while being made more accessible to the general public in a controlled manner through, for instance, the introduction of a visitor's centre.

The EIB's Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP) was set up following the European Council's Resolution on Growth and Employment at the Amsterdam Summit in June 1997 which called on the Bank to step up lending for investment to help job-creation. ASAP includes new lending for education, health and urban renewal, a special «window» to provide venture capital for high-growth small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and expansion of financing for trans-European networks (TENs) and other major infrastructure schemes, including environmental projects.

Including this loan to the Water Company of the Province of North Holland, the EIB has so far this year approved financing totalling some ECU 550 million for investment projects in the Netherlands.

The European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing institution, finances capital investment furthering European Union policy objectives, in particular regional development; trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks; industrial competitiveness; SMEs; environmental protection and improvement of the quality of life; and secure energy supplies. Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB raises its funds on international capital markets (AAA issuer). In 1997, the Bank lent over ECU 26 billion, of which ECU 23 billion within the European Union.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30 September 1998: 1 ECU = NLG 2.21.