The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending a total of 21 million euro(1) for 20 years to the Government of Lithuania to finance environment projects undertaken by towns and small local entities in Lithuania:

  • 15 million euro will be split among a number of towns or municipal utilities for upgrading environmental and other public infrastructure.
  • 6 million euro will help the City of Panevezys to upgrade its main waste-water treatment plant and sewer network and to improve sludge treatment and disposal.

Lithuania is among the ten Central European countries(2) which have applied for EU membership and will thus have to comply with the Union's norms and standards in areas such as environmental protection. While the EIB is financing large schemes in the candidate countries with direct loans, smaller scale projects are being funded indirectly, by means of credit lines to governments and selected partner banks.

The loans signed today in Vilnius bring total EIB lending in Lithuania to some 170 million euro. Other EIB loans mainly helped finance Vilnius International Airport, the port of Klaipeda, the gas network, the upgrading of many road links such as Via Baltica, several railway schemes, as well a new mobile telephone network. In addition, smaller companies were assisted through an EIB global loan (credit line) to Lithuanian Development Bank.

Commenting on the new loans, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth said: 'In the environmental field, the EU's Accession Partnerships with the candidate countries in Central Europe foresee investment support concentrating on compliance with Community norms. The European Investment Bank has become the largest single funding source for infrastructure in Central Europe. Environmental projects, in particular, are often also co-financed with grant funds provided by Phare, which is the other EU financing scheme to help these countries prepare for EU membership. Environmental projects undertaken at a local level help bring about a better quality of life and widespread economic benefits throughout the Baltics in sectors as diverse as healthcare, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.'

The EIB was set up in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome to lend to projects furthering European Union policies. While strengthening weaker EU regions has always been its main goal, the Bank also lends to projects outside the European Union under the Union's co-operation policy toward third countries. Since 1990 nearly 10 billion euro were lent to projects in the ten Central European countries which have applied for EU membership. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises the bulk of its funds on the capital markets worldwide where its bond issues regularly benefit from the Bank's `AAA' credit rating.

(1) 1 euro= 0.666300 GBP, 4.14560 LTL.

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