European Investment Bank President Philippe Maystadt said today in Bremen in Germany that enlargement of the Union will pose the greatest challenge for European regional policy. 

"With the accession of the Central and Eastern European countries, regional disparities within the European Union will reach an unprecedented level. The question will arise as to what degree of regional disparity the enlarged Union can tolerate without jeopardising its economic and social cohesion. A crucial issue will be to provide future Member States with the same level of assistance that has been and is still being given to the existing Cohesion Countries."

"Thus, there is only one conclusion to be drawn, namely that support measures should be made more effective and underpinned by clear priorities." 

Philippe Maystadt opened the European Investment Bank's sixth annual "EIB Forum" on the theme "Regional Development - Making Efficient Use of Financial Resources".

"Our main purpose will be to exchange mutual experiences and in the process to devote particular attention to effective deployment of both banking-sector loans and EU funds and to success in attaining regional policy objectives. To invest in bad projects would be a waste of capital - and this would mean missing out on growth potential and losing jobs in Europe." 

"Agenda 2000, which lays down the financial framework for the EU budget for the period up until 2006, does not provide for any major increase in regional policy expenditure. This means that if, over the next few years, we want to achieve greater success, this will only be possible if existing financial resources are deployed more efficiently", Maystadt says.

During the Forum's two day sessions, some 300 specialists from government and political circles, as well as administrative, industrial and banking sectors will tackle the factors for success and failure behind the different performances of regions, both in general and technical discussions. 

The speakers include Hans Eichel, the German Federal Minister of Finance, and Jaroslaw Bauc, the Polish Minister of Finance. A special highlight of the Forum will be the dinner speech by Günter Grass, Winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular, regional development. In 1999, EIB loans totalling EUR 17 billion were extended for projects in the Union's assisted areas.