Today, Wolfgang Roth, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, signed with Mr P. Jacoby, the Saarland's Minister for Finance and Federal Affairs, Dr. M. Häring, Chairman of the Board of SaarLB, and Mr W. Severin, Deputy Chairman of the Board of SaarLB, a long-term loan contract for financing road infrastructure in the Saarland. This EUR 80 million operation will contribute to the upgrading of existing roads as well as to the construction of new roads and bridges, covering a major part of the road infrastructure investment to be carried out under the Saarland's five-year Regional Development Programme.

The quality of the transport network is crucial for the attractiveness of the Saarland as an economic centre. Benefits stemming from the region's location at the heart of Europe will only be exploited to the full if reflected in short journey times. First-class integration of the Saarland into national and European transport networks is therefore essential.

The creation of efficient infrastructure, co-financed by this loan, includes in particular closing existing gaps in the road network by building and developing state roads and improving access to national trunk roads.

The loan will be made available to the Saarland through Landesbank Saar.

This financing arrangement on favourable terms provides the Saarland with a considerable interest rate advantage, generating scope for new investment. In 2002 60 km of state roads and 20 bridges were rehabilitated at a total cost of approximately EUR 25 million. Works on a similar scale are planned for this year.

Based in Luxembourg, the European Investment Bank is the European Union's financing institution. The Bank finances infrastructure development and modernisation, as well as capital investment by European companies with a view to sharpening their international competitive edge. Annual EIB lending runs to some EUR 39.6 billion (2002), with Germany attracting around EUR 6.5 billion, half of which absorbed by eastern Germany.