The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing institution of the European Union (EU), announces a loan for EUR 240 million(1) (ESP 40 billion) to Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO) for financing investment schemes undertaken by SMEs.

This brings the number of EIB loans with the same features and for similar amounts advanced to this institution since 1996 to four. ICO has deployed these loans to finance small and medium-scale ventures, which contribute greatly to regional development, enhancing the competitiveness of European industry and job creation, priority objectives of the European Union. Formally concluded this morning in Madrid, the new loan will ensure the continuity of this stream of funding.

In 1998, the EIB approved 8 global loans totalling EUR 1 017 million (ESP 170 billion) for the same number of Spanish financial institutions. These served to finance over 1 600 schemes mounted by SMEs and more than 200 infrastructural and environmental works carried out by local authorities.

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.Devised by the Bank in 1968, global loans are employed by the EIB to finance small and medium-scale ventures. They 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 targeted in favour of small and medium-scale investment schemes meeting the EIB's eligibility criteria.

(1) EUR 1 = ESP 166.386.