The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing a global loan of EUR 113 million (250 million Dutch guilders)(1) to Rabobank Nederland for financing investment projects by small and medium-sized enterprises, small-scale ventures in the health and education sectors, as well as schemes promoting environmental protection or creating infrastructure.

The finance contract was signed today in Amsterdam. EIB Vice-President Rudolf de Korte stressed the importance of SME investment and other small-scale ventures for regional development and employment."The European Union has acknowledged this, launching new policy initiatives such as the Amsterdam European Council's Resolution on Growth and Employment in June 1997. As the Union's financing arm, the EIB is an important partner in implementing such policy initiatives. For instance, in response to the Union's special focus on job creation and innovation, the Bank launched in late 1997 venture capital facilities offering finance for high-technology and growth-oriented SMEs. So far, it has approved over EUR 1 billion in support of some 40 venture capital funds throughout the Union. The EIB is ready to take part in the Lisbon European Council's measures for the creation of a European economy based on innovation and knowledge. The Bank can draw, among other things, on its expertise and experience in financing SME investment, including innovative SMEs funded through venture capital instruments; human capital-related ventures; communications networks and increased innovation".

EIB global loans are made available to national or regional financial institutions for onlending to small and medium-scale investment projects. Between 1995 and 1999, the Bank provided partner banks and financial institutions with a total of over EUR 35 billion benefiting some

55 000 SMEs and 11 000 small-scale infrastructure projects. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees received some 85% of overall assistance provided for SMEs.

Over the past five years (1995-1999), total EIB loan signatures in the Netherlands amounted to EUR 2.2 billion, of which some EUR 600 million in the form of global loan finance. Individual loans went among others towards the construction of household incineration plants in Nijmegen, Alkmaar, and Moerdijk; improvements to the air traffic system; a new motorway tunnel in the Province of Noord-Holland; upgrading of water supply systems in the Provinces of Noord-Holland and Limburg; an urban development project in Amsterdam; commissioning of a mobile telephony network; construction of a factory near Zwolle to produce diesel engines; and strengthening of river dykes in the Province of Gelderland.

As the European Union's financing institution, the EIB finances capital investment contributing towards one or more of the following EU objectives: regional development; transport, telecommunications and Trans-European Networks (TENs); secure energy supplies; improvements to the natural and urban environment; development of infrastructure in the health and education sectors; enhanced competitiveness and integration in European industry; investment by SMEs; venture capital finance. 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. Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB raises its funds on capital markets (AAA issuer).

(1) 1 EUR = 2.20 NLG.