The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is providing a total of EUR 215 million in support of investment in a road transport project of crucial importance to Greece and to the European transportation network as a whole.

The contracts were signed in Athens today between the EIB and Greece's Vice Minister of Economy & Finance Mr Ch.Pachtas.

EUR 140 million is advanced to the Hellenic Republic for the construction of 18 motorway sections totalling 123 km, forming part of the western section of Egnatia trunk road between Igoumenitsa and Panagia. Egnatia is the major West-East link road between Italy (port of Brindisi), Western Greece (port of Igoumenitsa), the Balkan countries and Turkey (Alexandroupolis-Kipi border crossing). Another loan of EUR 75 million is being advanced for the construction of 50.8 km of motorway, including the Thessaloniki bypass, also forming part of the EGNATIA trunk road.

The Egnatia project, together with PATHE (Pathe-Athens-Thessaloniki-Evzoni) motorway, is one of Greece's major trunk roads included in the Trans-European Networks (TEN). Its upgrading was pinpointed as a priority investment by the European Union. As such, it is supported jointly by the Union structural funds, through the successive Community Support Frameworks, and by the EIB.

These two loans represent new tranches of a wider lending facility for the Egnatia motorway project. The EIB has so far contributed with a total amount of EUR 1 580 million to the financing of several EGNATIA sections totalling some 393 km (or 58% of the total highway), of which, almost 60% has already been delivered to traffic.

In addition to the direct economic benefits in terms of savings in journey time and fewer road accidents, upgrading of the Egnatia motorway is of vital importance for the development and the opening-up of international communications in the region and Greece as a whole.

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the financing institution of the European Union (EU) was created in 1958 by the Treaty of Rome. Owned by the EU's Member States, EIB's mission is to further the political objectives of the EU by providing long-term finance for specific capital investment projects. The task of identifying and appraising projects to be financed is entrusted to the Bank. Within the EU, where the largest part of its lending takes place, the EIB contributes primarily towards building a closer-knit Europe, particularly in terms of economic integration and greater social cohesion. Outside the EU, the Bank also makes significant amounts available under technical cooperation and development aid policies established by the EU in favour of non EU-member countries.