Today the St Petersburg South West Wastewater Treatment Plant has been put into operation in the presence of President Putin and Mrs Valentina Matvienko, Governor of the City. This new treatment plant will biologically clean the wastewaters of a 720,000 population equivalent. It will help to meet the Helsinki Commission Recommendations and EU standards of water treatment, contributing significantly to the upgrading of water quality in the Baltic Sea and thus benefiting all neighbouring Baltic Sea countries.

This project was the first in Russia to have received finance from EIB: a loan of EUR 25 million was signed with the St Petersburg water company Vodokanal in December 2003 while the EIB held the rotating Chairmanship of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP). Additional co-financiers include the City of St Petersburg, NIB, EBRD, NEFCO, the European Commission, Finnfund, Swedfund and the private investors involved in Nordvod, the entity in charge of building the plant.

Mr Sauli Niinistö, EIB Vice-President responsible for the Bank's lending in Russia, commented: The completion of the South West Wastewater Treatment Plant is an example of the environmental improvements that can be achieved in the region through a coordinated approach that combines the strengths of all parties concerned. It demonstrates the success of trans-national initiatives such as the NDEP and serves as a platform for continuing our close cooperation with the Russian Federation.

The EIB's loan for the project was granted under its first mandate for lending activities in Russia, following the European Council decision of March 2001, for the financing of selected environmental projects in the Baltic Sea basin of Russia for a total amount of EUR 100 million. In the St Petersburg region, EIB has provided two further loans under this mandate: EUR 20 million to Vodokanal of St Petersburg for the rehabilitation and modernisation of the City's Northern Wastewater Treatment Plant, and EUR 40 million to the Russian Federation for the St Petersburg Flood Protection Barrier.

In December 2004, the Council of the European Union confirmed a further EIB mandate for Russia, covering also Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus for an amount of EUR 500 million. This extended mandate applies to environmental projects as well as transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructure on priority Trans-European Network (TEN) axes with cross-border implications for EU Member States. As was the case under the first mandate, EIB is cooperating very closely with other International Financial Institutions with regard to its activities in Russia, including in particular the EBRD.

The EIB finances sound long-term investments that further EU policies. The NDEP represents a concerted effort uniting the Russian Federation, the European Commission, bilateral donors and the main IFIs active in the region in order to coordinate and accelerate the implementation of important environmental and nuclear safety projects in the Northern Dimension, especially in North West Russia and Kaliningrad. The Northern Dimension, which is implemented within the framework of the EU's Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia, addresses the specific challenges and opportunities arising in the Baltic Sea and Arctic Sea regions and aims to strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between the other neighbouring countries and Russia.