The Spanish Ministry for Development, along with its main public transport infrastructure agencies - Gestión de Infraestructuras Ferroviarias (GIF), Ente Público de Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (AENA), Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles (RENFE) and Puertos del Estado (PdE) - and the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, have concluded, at the Ministry's initiative, four Framework Cooperation Agreements for financing large-scale investment projects.

The agreements were signed today in Madrid by the Minister for Development, Mr Francisco Álvarez-Cascos Fernández, EIB President Philippe Maystadt, and the Chairmen of GIF, AENA, RENFE and PdE.

They will enable the EIB to provide loans totalling up to EUR 10 billion over the next 4 to 5 years, underpinning implementation of the Spanish Government's ambitious Public Infrastructure Plan for 2000-2006. A large part of this investment programme will be managed by the Ministry for Development via its Transport Infrastructure Plan, which provides for investment to the tune of EUR 60 billion over the period.

Close links have been forged between the EIB and the Ministry for Development since Spain joined the EU. During that time, the Bank has made a substantial contribution towards financing the country's main large-scale public transport infrastructure.

The signing of these agreements highlights the EIB's commitment to stepping up its cooperation with the Spanish Government in achieving the goals of trans-European transport networks policy as well as to continuing to assist the integration of Spain's economy into the wider European economy.

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 EU objectives.

Specifically, the EIB supports viable projects promoting: development of the Union's less favoured regions; construction of trans-European transport, telecoms and energy networks; the international competitiveness and integration of Europe's industry, especially SMEs; environmental protection and improvement; security of the Union's energy supply; and health and education. Within certain limits, the EIB also provides financing outside the Union in support of the EU'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.

In 2001, the EIB signed loans in Spain totalling EUR 4 559 million, including some EUR 2 700 million for infrastructure, energy and communications projects.