His Majesty King Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and a high level Jordanian delegation visited the European Investment Bank (EIB) this morning for discussions with the Bank's President, Mr Philippe Maystadt and the EIB Vice-President in charge of the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), Mr Philippe de Fontaine Vive. On this occasion HM King Abdullah II met also with EIB Vice-Presidents Peter Sedgwick, Sauli Niinistö and Torsten Gersfelt as well as senior EIB officials.

King Abdullah visited the Bank in view of FEMIP's major role in the financial and economic cooperation between the European Union and the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPCs).

The King's visit to the Bank on 25 November was particularly auspicious as 2004 marks the 25th anniversary of the very fruitful cooperation which started between Jordan and the EIB back in 1979. Since then almost 60 operations have been signed, on average more than two per year, adding up to a total loan volume of almost EUR 750 million. This lending contributed to project investment in excess of EUR 1.5 billion.

These figures underline the EIB's involvement in financing key sectors of the Jordanian economy, including the modernisation of transport infrastructure (upgrading ports and roads), expanding power generation and distribution, broadening telecom networks, supporting industrial development (especially for small and medium sized entrepreneurs), helping to improve living conditions for Jordanian citizens (through water supply and wastewater projects) or investing in human capital by increasing access to education.

This long standing cooperation demonstrates Jordan's commitment towards a partnership with the EIB and the European Union and forms the basis for broadening FEMIP's activities in the country in the future, both in volume but, equally, in quality and the type of support made. Jordan should be the first and most prominent candidate to benefit from the enhanced private sector support offered under FEMIP. At the same time, FEMIP will continue to place emphasis on support for key public sector infrastructure projects that will help create an enabling environment for the private sector to flourish, such as transport projects and projects to improve water and wastewater treatment and for health and education.

Progress on projects recently financed in Jordan was reviewed and a long and constructive discussion was held on proposals for the future FEMIP financing of important investment projects in the country. HM the King expressed his gratitude for the contribution made by the Bank to the economic development of Jordan and the Mediterranean region. Mr Maystadt and Mr de Fontaine Vive assured him of the Bank's intention to maintain and enhance that support in the future.

Lending in the mediterranean partner countries (MPCS) takes place under the facility for euro-mediterranean investment and partnership (FEMIP). FEMIP focuses primarily on developing the private sector and financing socio-economic infrastructure underpinning private sector development.

This is the culmination of a partnership between the European Union and its neighbour countries on the Mediterranean that goes back more than thirty years, and has been intensified in the 90's in support of the Barcelona Process, first launched at the Barcelona Conference in November 1995. FEMIP aims to help the Mediterranean Partner Countries meet the challenges of economic and social modernisation and enhanced regional integration within the framework of Wider Europe-Neighbourhood, and with a view to the establishment of a Euro-Mediterranean free-trade area. It has enabled Europe to step up its cooperation with the Partner Countries. Thanks to this Facility, endowed with increased financial resources, lending activity in the region has increased from EUR 1.5 billion to EUR 2 billion annually. FEMIP gives priority to financing private sector ventures, with the dual aim of liberalizing the economies of the MPCs and developing their potential in the run-up to the planned creation of an EU/MPC customs union in 2010. It focuses on foreign direct investment and local private sector initiatives as well as social-sector projects, particularly in the fields of health, education and environmental protection, which are fundamental in achieving social stability and encouraging productive investment.