The European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing arm, is donating EUR 600 000(1) to help the Kosovo refugees. The funds are being made available in equal amounts to six reputable humanitarian agencies in Luxembourg (Caritas, Unicef, Croix Rouge, Médecins sans Frontières, Pharmaciens sans Frontières, Handicap International), providing emergency aid to refugees who have reached Albania and FYROM-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

While the EIB is already the major provider of funds for upgrading infrastructure in the ten Central and Eastern European countries(2) which have applied for membership in the European Union, the Bank is also playing a growing role in the three front-line States which are suffering most from the conflict in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and FYROM. So far, the EIB has provided EUR 68 million for projects in Albania, EUR 70 million in FYROM and has recently accepted a mandate to lend up to EUR 100 million to schemes helping to rebuild war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Over the last month, the EIB has also taken an active role in meetings of governments and international organisations to discuss the international community's response to the Kosovo crisis and its impact on the neighbouring Balkan countries, in particular to review the short-term responses to humanitarian needs, determine a medium- to long-term approach for reconstruction, and to formulate the next steps for a co-ordinated response to the economic and social impact of the conflict.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), established in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome setting up the European Community, is the European Union's long-term financing institution supporting capital investment projects that further European integration. While strengthening economically weak regions in the European Union (EU) has always been its main objective, the Bank also finances projects in support of other EU policies. In some 120 countries outside the Community the EIB is participating in the implementation of the EU's development and cooperation policy. In 1998, the EIB provided loans totalling some EUR 29.5 billion, of which EUR 4.4 billion for projects outside the EU. The Bank borrows on the capital markets the funds for its lending. Its bonds have regularly been rated "AAA" by the leading rating agencies. As the EIB works on a non-profit basis it can pass on to project promoters the excellent conditions it obtains on the markets. The EIB normally finances up to 50 percent of project cost; on average it provides one third of the funding and co-finances investments with other institutions.

(1) 1 euro = 0.6666300 GBP, 1.95583 DEM, 6.55957 FRF, 1.07420 USD.

(2) Bulgaria, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.