The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending EUR 50 million for landslide protection measures in Poland. Promoter of the project is the Office for Flood Damage Recovery, through Central Government, Regional and Local Authorities.

The Deputy Minister of Finance of Poland Ryszard Michalski and EIB's Vice President Wolfgang Roth signed the financing contract this morning at the EIB's Luxembourg headquarters. Mr Michalski, together with Ministers of Finance from all Acceding Countries, had previously attended the 2003 Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the EIB, held for the first time in the presence of representatives from the 10 countries that will join the EU and become EIB shareholders as of 1 May 2004.

Flooding has been a recurring event in the region, with widespread damages as late as in last summer particularly in Austria and in Germany. Poland was severely hit by heavy rainfall, high flood waters and rapid snow melting during the period 1997-2001, provoking both direct flood damages (Odra River in 1997 and in the Vistula River in 2001) and major landslides across the whole territory of Poland. The National Authorities responded immediately to the flood events with major reconstruction programmes, to which the Bank contributed with loans of EUR 300 m (1997) and EUR 250 m (2001), and with a major flood risk mapping and early warning plan. In August 2002, recognizing the specific risks posed by landslides, the Polish Government adopted a strategy to address the landslide issue. The loan signed today will help progress with the implementation of the necessary measures, to protect existing infrastructure and provide a basis for sustainable management of risks associated with natural disasters.

The current EIB project concerns both hard and soft investment schemes to protect vital infrastructure against landslide risk. Although the vast majority of them will be in the Carpathian mountains in Southern Poland, schemes located elsewhere in the country dealing with the same problem would also be eligible. Physical works will involve landslide stabilisation (drainage, anchoring, toe erosion protection, etc.) or infrastructure relocation. Soft measures eligible for funding will include risk mapping, development of early warning systems and land-use planning tools.

While the bulk of the Bank's loans go to projects in the EU, especially in its lesser developed regions, the EIB's activities in the Accession Countries is growing fast and has already reached some 10 per cent of its lending volume. Protecting and enhancing the environment is one of the top lending priorities. For the four-year period 1999-2002, the Bank provided EUR 11,6 billion in financing to countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including EUR 1,7 billion though global loans. Of the financing provided directly by the EIB, 28% concerned environmental projects. EIB portfolio in Poland, spread across sectors and covering both public and private sector operations, amounts to approx. EUR 6 billion.