A loan of EUR 20 million(1) signed today by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the "Association of Communes for Ecology" of Zywiec in Southern Poland, on Czech and Slovak border, will help upgrade and extend sewage systems and a wastewater treatment plant, to meet national and EU environmental standards. The Association is one of the firsts established in Poland between Municipalities that wished to combine their efforts and face jointly their needs in environmental investments.

Commenting on the loan, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth said 'The project will reduce pollution and health hazards, and generally raise life quality for a population of some 200 000 in Zywiec and in a number of villages along the homonymous lake and along the Vistula tributaries. It will facilitate the development of tourism and widen the basis for the economic development of the region

Since 1990, the EIB, the European Union's loan financing arm, lent nearly EUR 2.9 billion in Poland, more than in any other Central European country. About EUR 1 billion went to Trans-European road and rail Networks (TENs), including some EUR 500 million for upgrading the major international East-west railway line, as well as urban transport schemes.

In addition to transport schemes, the EIB mainly financed fixed and mobile telecommunication networks, environment-friendly infrastructure, the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged during the 1997 floods in Silesia. Support has also been provided for projects in industry and the gas sector. Small and medium-scale industrial, and energy and municipal investments are being financed through global loans (credit lines) to commercial banks established in Poland.

Since 1990, the EIB has lent some EUR 11 billion to projects in twelve Central and Eastern European countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania. Between 1997 and 1999, annual lending in the ten candidates for EU accession averaged some EUR 2 billion. In line with decisions by the EIB's Board of Governors (the fifteen EU Finance Ministers), lending to projects in the region may double to an annual EUR 4 billion during the coming three year period.

(1) 1 EUR = 1.95583 DEM; 0.621700 GBP; 4.15870 PLN.