The European Investment Bank (EIB) has substantially stepped up its support for the development of a strong small and medium size enterprises sector (SMEs) in the EU Accession Countries of Central Europe. Over the last months, new global loans (credit lines) for a total amount of EUR 215 million (1) were signed with selected partner institutions in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania. The local intermediaries indicated below will use the long-term funds mainly for financing small and medium-scale enterprises and local infrastructure projects:
Commenting on the strong development of EIB lending to SMEs, EIB Vice-President Wolfgang Roth said: 'In line with the EIB's specific role to assist the ten Central European candidates for EU membership, our global loans bring much needed long-term funds through selected banks to SMEs and smaller infrastructure schemes. As an increasingly active borrower in the local currencies of Central Europe, the EIB is often able to offer credits in local currency, thereby eliminating the foreign exchange risk also for its smaller clients.'
In Central Europe as in the EU, the EIB finances large projects with direct loans and smaller schemes through global loans, using the network of more than thirty intermediary banks. EIB has already committed more than EUR 1.7 billion in the form of global loans for financing small projects, which represents 13% of the Bank's total commitments in the Central European Accession Countries.
The EIB was set up in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome to lend to projects furthering European Union policies. While strengthening weaker EU regions has always been its main goal, the Bank also lends to projects outside the European Union under the Union's co-operation policy toward third countries. Since 1990, nearly EUR 14 billion were lent to projects in the ten Central European countries which have applied for EU membership. Owned by the Member States, the EIB raises the bulk of its funds on the capital markets worldwide where its bond issues regularly benefit from the Bank's 'AAA' credit rating.
(1) 1 EUR = 0.609 GBP