The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing arm of the European Union, and Aquafin, the company responsible for the supra-municipal managing wastewater treatment facilities in Flanders, have today signed a further loan to the tune of EUR 75 million. This operation is being mounted under a EUR 250 million finance agreement, finalised in September 2002. An initial tranche of EUR 100 million was made available in 2002 with a further EUR 75 million signed one year later.

This framework agreement loan will encompass 219 individual projects, providing for the construction and upgrade of main sewers, treatment plants and pumping stations in the Flanders region. The loan, which is arranged in collaboration with Dexia, will facilitate compliance with EC wastewater directives, driving forward Aquafin's goal to provide state-of-the-art wastewater treatment in the region.

The project also foresees significant environmental benefits to water quality in the Escault and Meuse rivers and the surrounding North Sea area. Aquafin has a strong proven record of good environmental practices with continued collaboration with local municipalities, leading to more effective and integrated environmental planning.

The loan was signed on July 7, 2005 by MM. Luc Bossyns, CEO Aquafin and Wilfried Van den Heuvel, member of the Board of Aquafin, by MM. Philippe Steverlynck, Manager Corporate Banking Dexia and Marc Dalkin, Manager Corporate Banking Region Antwerp Dexia and by Mrs Isabel Martín Castellá, EIB Vice President responsible for operations in Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg, Asia and Latin America.

Praising the operation Mrs Castellá stated, The EIB is delighted by the positive relationship it continues to enjoy with Aquafin, as evidenced by this fifth loan of its type since 1994. The investment is a prime example of the EIB's commitment to supporting projects of environmental significance. The operation will have a beneficial impact on the water quality in the area, improving living standards in the Flanders region and neighbouring countries which share the North Sea.

This finance agreement with EIB shows the EIB's confidence in our activities and our performance in the wastewater business, stated M.Bossyns, These loans are of great importance for Aquafin and the Flemish Region, in order to meet with the EC wastewater directives.

Since the 1980s, the water and sanitation sector has been a key area for EIB lending. The projects financed help to protect and safeguard the natural environment and contribute to the welfare of the people concerned, to regional development and to economic and social cohesion within the EU. In the past ten years, the EIB has lent EUR 12.2 billion for water sector projects in 21 of the 25 member countries of the EU-25.