The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing arm of the European Union (EU), announces a loan of EUR 100 million (ESP 16 600 million) (1) to Barcelona's water utility, Aguas Ter-Llobregat. The EIB's 25 year term loan, which will contribute towards the utility's 2000-2004 capital investment programme, are particularly well suited to the project in question and complement the medium-term credit provided by the commercial banking sector.

The particular project on which this loan is focused encompasses extension and upgrading of wastewater treatment facilities, as well as the supply system bringing water to more than 100 municipalities in the Greater Barcelona area, one of the most industrialised and densely populated of Spain's conurbations. The combined works will improve the quality and reliability of the water utility's supplies to the region's some 4.4 million residents.

The project promoter, Aguas Ter-Lllobregat, is a public body under the aegis of Catalonia's independent regional authority, the Comunidad Autónoma (CA) de Cataluña. The utility is responsible for constructing, maintaining and managing the water system fed by the Ter and Lllobregat rivers. The main thrust of its capital investment programme is to uprate water management and conservation and to guarantee security of supply during periods of drought when there is far less scope for tapping groundwater resources than under normal operating conditions.

The EIB was founded in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community, with the aim of fostering enhanced integration, balanced development and economic and social cohesion in the Member States by providing long-term financing for capital investment furthering attainment of EU objectives. It supports viable projects: fostering development of the EU's less favoured regions; targeting construction of trans-European transport, telecoms and energy networks; bolstering the international competitiveness and integration of European industry, particularly SMEs; safeguarding and improving the environment; endowing the EU with secure energy supplies; and promoting health and education facilities. Within certain limits, it also extends financing outside the Union in pursuit of the latter's policy of cooperation with third countries.

Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB funds its lending operations through borrowings raised on the capital markets, where its bond issues systematically enjoy the top AAA rating.

(1) EUR 1 = ESP 166.386, 0.596700 GBP.