The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing a global loan(1) for EUR 75 million (NLG 165 million)(2) to SNS bank Nederland N.V. for financing investment by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in industry and services, energy and environmental schemes, as well as small and medium-scale public ventures in health and education.

Commenting on the loan agreement, EIB Vice-President Rudolf de Korte said:"Support for investment by SMEs has been a priority of the Bank for thirty years now and plays a key role in our contribution to future growth and employment in the EU. While financing environmental and energy projects has also figured among the Bank's core business for many years, lending for schemes in the"human capital" sectors of education and health is a relatively new EIB activity. It is a key element of the Amsterdam Special Action Programme (ASAP), our contribution to the Amsterdam European Council Summit's Resolution on Growth and Employment, which also comprises provision of venture capital facilities to specialised funds for innovative SMEs; new lending for urban renewal and development schemes; and increased financing for trans-European networks and other major infrastructure projects".

SNS bank Nederland has a long-standing experience in financing SMEs, many of which are located in the country's assisted areas in the North, East and South, and is active in financing investment in the sectors of health and education. Today's loan agreement concerns the second global loan from the EIB to SNS bank Nederland, allowing the two financial institutions to intensify their cooperation.

During the last five years (1994-1998), EIB has signed loan agreements in the Netherlands for a total of more than EUR 2.2 billion. Over EUR 560 million has taken the form of global loans to intermediary banks (including SNS bank Nederland N.V.) for SME investment and small and medium-scale public ventures. Today's loan agreement brings global loan signatures in the Netherlands this year to EUR 210 million.

The EIB, the EU's financing institution, supports capital investment projects contributing towards one or more of the following EU objectives: regional development; trans-European transport, telecoms and energy networks; international competitiveness and integration of European industry; investment by SMEs; environmental protection; and security of energy supplies. Outside the EU, the Bank participates in implementing the EU's development policy in accordance with the terms of the various agreements which the Union has concluded with some 130 countries.

(1) Global loans are credit lines from the EIB to banks and other financial institutions within and outside the European Union, used to finance projects of a modest scale undertaken by small and medium-sized companies or local authorities. The EIB currently has loan agreements of this kind in the EU with some 150 banks, which are all in close contact with and have a thorough knowledge of local businesses and public bodies. Over the past five years, some 50 000 SME ventures in the Union have attracted financing totalling EUR 11.6 billion under global loan arrangements.

(2) EUR 1 = NLG 2.20.