The European Investment Bank (EIB) is lending EUR 50 million (1) to Bulgaria for a new bridge over the Danube, linking Bulgaria with Romania. The combined road and railway bridge between Vidin (Bulgaria) and Calafat (Romania) is of utmost importance for developing pan-European Corridor IV which links Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey.

The 25 year loan to the Republic of Bulgaria has a grace period of 8 years and will be made available to the Ministry of Transport which is in charge of the project. Another EUR 20 million, approved by the EIB's board but not yet signed, will eventually bring total EIB lending for the new bridge to EUR 70 million. European Union grants and bilateral funds will also contribute to the financing of the new bridge which is scheduled to open in 2005.

Commenting on the loan, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth said: 'This new bridge over the Danube will be a corner-stone for the completion of a basic multimodal transport network for the enlarged European Union and will benefit the candidate countries and the EU alike. It will also have a strong local development impact as it is likely to become the catalyst for the development of the Vidin-Dolj Euroregion. It is therefore strongly supported by both the European Union and the Stability Pact.'

The loan for the new Danube bridge brings total EIB lending in Bulgaria since 1991 to EUR 859 million. Previous EIB loans in Bulgaria concerned a coal-fired power station, the telecommunications network, the country-wide air-traffic control system, the new Thrakia motorway and the upgrading of the existing road network, the extension of Sofia's airport, environmental schemes to protect the shores of the Black Sea and Danube, the modernisation of a copper plant, improvements to the railway network and several wastewater schemes in regional towns. The EIB also granted global loans (credit lines) to banks in Bulgaria for financing small industrial, tourism, energy and environmental schemes.

The EIB is also lending to projects in Albania and in most successor States to former Yugoslavia but so far more than 90 percent of the EUR 13 billion provided in Central and South-Eastern Europe was concentrated in the ten candidates for EU membership.

(1) 1 EUR: 1.95583 BGN, 0.596700 GBP 21.187.0 ROL.