The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing arm of the European Union (EU), announces a credit facility of EUR 250 million (ESP 41 600 million) (1) made available to the Autoridad Portuaria de Barcelona (Barcelona Port Authority). The funds target major extension works designed to increase the transport potential of this major Mediterranean gateway. The finance contract for the initial tranche of the EIB's loan was signed this morning in Luxembourg by EIB Vice-President, Isabel Martin Castellá, and Barcelona Port Authority President, Mr Joaquim Tosas.

This ambitious infrastructure scheme entails diversion of the Llobregat River so as to permit further expansion of the port southwards. It also calls for several kilometers of breakwater and construction of a container terminal on land reclaimed from the sea together with extensive coastal protection and environmental works. Designed to double the port's capacity, the new infrastructure will enable this premier Spanish maritime transport hub to cope with ever-growing container traffic demand.

At EU level, the port of Barcelona ranks as an international junction within the Union's key trans-European transport network. The additional installations will promote increased trading links not only between EU Member States but also between them and partner Mediterranean rim countries. Considerable store has been set by environmental considerations: two environmental impact assessments have been carried out with a view to identifying how best to protect the local environment and to ensuring that the project works incorporate optimum safeguards.

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; promoting 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) 1 EUR = ESP 166.386, 0.638700 GBP