The European Investment Bank (EIB), is lending EUR 45 million (1) to UAB Bité GSM, the private mobile telephone operator in Lithuania: The funds will help to expand the mobile telephony links and also to set up a data and internet network. The new loan brings total EIB support to Lithuania's GSM network to EUR 67 million.

Commenting on the loan, EIB Vice President Wolfgang Roth said: 'The EIB is a major lender for telecommunication investments in the Central European countries, helping them to develop fixed and mobile networks on a cost-effective and durable basis, improving their communications links with neighbouring countries and facilitating their integration with the European Union.'

The loan signed today brings EIB lending in Lithuania to EUR 232 million. Previous loans helped finance a wide range of infrastructure and environmental projects, in particular ports, roads, airport, railways and gas supply facilities. The EIB is also assisting the development of small and medium-size enterprises through its global loans (credit lines) to the Lithuanian banking sector.

Since 1990 the EIB lent over EUR 10 billion to projects in the ten Central European countries which have applied for EU membership: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Rumania and Bulgaria. Other counties in the region where the EIB may lend are Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the FYR of Macedonia. The EIB was set up in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome to further the economically weak regions in the EU and other objectives contributing to European integration. Last year, the EIB lent nearly EUR 30 billion, of which 2.3 billion for projects in the accession countries. EIB loans are also available on a lesser scale in some 100 developing countries in the non-Member Mediterranean countries as well as in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, Latin America and Asia.

(1) 1 EUR = 0.647500 GBP, 4.22520 LTL.