The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is granting two loans of EUR 50 million, one for the construction of a new court of justice building in Place Saint-Lambert in Liège, and the other for the development of a new judicial centre in Mons.

These operations were finalised on 12 May in Brussels at the Office of the Finance Minister, Didier Reynders. The finance contracts were signed, for the EIB, by its President Philippe Maystadt, for the Régie des bâtiments, by its Supervisory Minister Rik Daems (Federal Minister of Telecommunications, Public Enterprises and Participations, with responsibility for smaller businesses), and for the Belgian State by Mr Didier Reynders.

This investment by Régie des bâtiments, the Belgian public entity which is the borrower and project promoter, forms part of a comprehensive urban renewal strategy aimed at improving the quality of life in the historic centres of Liège and Mons. The scheduled work will help to safeguard and showcase valuable components of the architectural heritage of these two cities and will contribute to their economic regeneration.

The two projects tie in with the policy of improving public services. More specifically, they focus on increasing the operational efficiency of the judicial system.

In Liège, the construction of the new court of justice building is included in the Master Plan adopted in 1985 outlining the principles for development of the historical district in the northern part of the city. The new architectural complex to be financed by the EIB loan will be adjacent to and integrated with the existing Palais des Princes-Evêques, the city's most important historic landmark, where certain judicial functions are currently performed. It will consist of eight buildings arranged in two major blocks, on a 40 000 m² site, where the 600 employees of the Commercial Court, the Labour Court and the Small Claims Court, as well as the Lower Court, the Office of the Public Prosecutor and other departments, will be accommodated. Works are due to start by the summer and will be spread over five years until 2008.

In Mons too, the vast works programme aimed at redeploying the judicial infrastructure in the historic city centre between now and 2006 forms part of the city's development plan drawn up in 1997. The new judicial centre will bring together all courts and related administrative services on one site. The works will comprise the renovation, conversion and extension of the existing Court of Justice and surrounding 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings in which the Small Claims Courts and Tribunal for Labour Disputes will be located. They will also include the construction of a new 33 000 m² centre, into which the EIB loan will particularly be channelled and which will house the Criminal Court, Labour Court, Office of the Public Prosecutor and Tribunal for Labour Disputes, along with ancillary departments (court offices, library and archive facilities).

This EIB loan will enable Régie des bâtiments, which is responsible for managing the Belgian State's public service buildings and properties, to diversify the borrowings required for its investment programme and obtain funds on the keenest terms, especially as regards maturity.

The EIB is supporting these projects under the headings of regional development (Mons and Liège are located in Objective 1 and Objective 2 regional development areas') and improvement of quality of life in urban areas.

In 2002, EIB loans for regional development in the European Union totalled EUR 19.8 billion, accounting for 60% of financing operations within the EU. Over the last five years, lending for urban environment projects ran to almost EUR 16.8 billion. Examples include support for infrastructure and urban regeneration schemes in the following cities: Florence, Bologna, Milan, Seville, Madrid, Lyons, Bastia, Berlin, Mannheim, Tampere.