The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending the FYR of Macedonia EUR 60 million for major road developments that form crucial elements in the Balkan post-war reconstruction effort. The loan was concluded in the Macedonian capital of Skopje following discussions between the FYR of Macedonia's Prime Minister Mr Ljubco Georgievski and a high-level EIB Delegation led by EIB President Sir Brian Unwin, on Saturday.

Commenting on the loan, Sir Brian Unwin said: "Modernisation of the FYR of Macedonia's main road network will play a crucial role in under-pinning post-war reconstruction in the Balkans. I am glad that the EIB has been able to react in such a swift and practical manner in concluding this loan, so soon after the end of the Kosovo war. This is the first loan arranged by the new EIB Balkan task-force, which has been able to draw on the long experience of the Bank in financing projects in the region".

The loan, for 25 years, including a 7 year grace period with a 2% interest rate subsidy drawn from the EU budget, is for works to improve traffic circulation around Skopje on the main north-south E75 route and access to the east-west E65 route. Both routes form key links in the trans-European transport corridors (Corridors VIII and X), and play a central role in the FYR of Macedonia's economy, as vital connections with neighbouring countries, in particular the Port of Thessaloniki in Greece. Modernising and adapting the main transport network will facilitate international traffic and foster trade, both key factors in the resumption of normal economic activity and growth in the FYR of Macedonia.

The EIB was active in the former Yugoslavian region, including the FYR of Macedonia, from the late 1970s until the break up of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, lending a total of EUR 600 million, mainly for infrastructure projects. The EIB resumed operations in the FYR of Macedonia in 1998 with a EUR 70 million loan for other sections of the same major roads. As well as FYR of Macedonia, the EIB is also operating in Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The EIB's Balkans task-force consists of an experienced team of bankers, economists and engineers, responsible for identifying infrastructure projects in the transport, telecommunications, energy and environmental sectors that need to be rebuilt as a matter of priority and for which the EIB can provide finance at short notice. The task-force is also responsible for co-ordinating with the European Commission and other international financial institutions working for the reconstruction of the Balkans.

The EIB is the largest source of investment financing in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan regions. Much of this finance has gone for major infrastructure to develop internal and external communications on a cost-effective and durable basis and linking them up with the trans-European networks (TENs) of the Union. Since 1990, EIB has provided over ECU 9.5 billion for projects in the EU-applicant countries of: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as countries in the Balkan region.