The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending EUR 175 million (1) to DARS (Druzba za avtoceste v Republiki Sloveniji), the state motorway company, for building 17 km of motorway between Blagovica and Vransko, in central Slovenia. The loan for the final section of the Ljubljana-Maribor motorway brings the total provided by the EIB for completing this important link between Slovenia's two major cities to EUR 395 million.

The Ljubljana-Maribor motorway forms part of Priority Corridor V of the Trans-European Road Network from Italy to Ukraine, through Slovenia, Hungary and Slovakia, and was earmarked for urgent upgrading in the Pan-European conferences on transport in Crete and Helsinki. The loan agreement was signed today in Ljubljana by DARS President Janez Bozic and EIB's Director for Central and Eastern Europe, Walter Cernoia.

The Slovene National Motorway Building Programme foresees the completion of the 'Motorway Cross', which will connect the country's four corners with one North-South and one East-West corridor, with a hub in the capital Ljubljana. These are Priority Corridors V and X of the Trans-European Network for Central and Eastern Europe. With regard to Slovenia's motorways programme the EIB, which is the most important provider of funds for transport infrastructure development in the Central Europe, is planning to sign this year another EUR 160 million loan already approved by the Bank's Board, for a 15 km motorway section between Klanec and Srmin, southwest of Lubljana, to improve access to the Adriatic port of Koper. As a result, the total made available by the EIB for motorway financing in Slovenia will reach some EUR 710 million by the end of 1999.

At the signature, EIB Director Cernoia said: "This is another step for developing a key international trans-European road corridor and linking Slovenia with the European Union and the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The new motorway comprises four tunnels and some twenty bridges and will help improve road safety and reduce congestion and pollution in several towns of central Slovenia. Developing a modern motorway network is vital for integrating Slovenia with the European Union and for underpinning economic activity.'

EIB lending for transport projects in Slovenia has reached EUR 800 million, of which some EUR 450 million were provided during the last five years. The EIB previously helped finance sections of the Trans-Yugoslav Railways and Highways in Slovenia, including the Karawanken Tunnel to Austria. Since independence, the EIB has also financed telecommunications and is now extending its lending other key economic sectors, in particular small and medium scale companies in industry and tourism.

Since 1990, the EIB has lent some EUR 9 billion to projects in twelve Central and Eastern European countries: Albania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, FYR Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 1999 the EIB is planning to lend some EUR 3 billion to projects in Central Europe. Part of this comes under a special Pre-Accession Facility set up to help the ten accession candidates in the region prepare for EU membership.

(1) 1 euro = 1.9553 DEM, 1.07420 USD, 0.666300 GBP, 191.131 SIT.