The European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s financing institution, and Société Publique de Gestion de l’Eau (SPGE) met for the third time to sign a loan contract, as the EIB is providing a long-term loan of EUR 400m to SPGE for wastewater treatment, the protection of water catchment areas and priority sewerage and drainage works. Recognising the need to preserve one of its natural resources, in 1999 the Walloon Region set up Société Publique de Gestion de l’Eau, whose main tasks are to provide public sewerage services and to protect catchment areas.
With regard to the 1991 European Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, Belgium in general and the Walloon Region in particular were lagging well behind other areas. SPGE therefore mounted an ambitious investment programme of around EUR 2.5bn for the period up to 2010.
In order to cover the cost of this investment, while smoothing out water price increases over time, SPGE is expected to seek substantial but controlled amounts of external finance. In this context, a third loan contract for a EUR 400 million tranche has just been signed by EIB President Philippe MAYSTADT and Mr Jean-Luc MARTIN, Chairman of SPGE's Board of Directors, in the presence of Mr Benoît LUTGEN, Minister of Agriculture, Rural Affairs, the Environment and Tourism. This third loan brings the total amount that the EIB has advanced to SPGE to help accelerate its investment to EUR 800m.
SPGE's Chairman Jean-Luc Martin, stated that “this new commitment by the EIB endorses the model introduced for the management of the wastewater treatment and catchment area protection sector. This cooperation with the EIB is an important sign not only of the appropriateness of the structure put in place but also of SPGE’s desire to comply as rapidly as possible with European regulations. And the results are very encouraging: the sewage treatment rate is now over 60% and, with the commissioning of the Liège-Oupeye treatment plant that we have the pleasure of opening today, we will exceed 73%”.
EIB President Philippe Maystadt emphasised that “this operation contributes to one of the EIB’s priority objectives, the protection and improvement of the environment. This objective accounts for almost one third of EIB loans within the EU-27, which over the last five years have amounted to more than EUR 55bn, including EUR 9.6 million for projects aimed at enhancing water quality (collection, treatment and distribution), as well as solid waste management and processing”.
Mr Maystadt also pointed out “that the EIB has advanced a total of EU 2.024bn for water projects in Belgium since 1994, when the first investments were made in wastewater treatment and the modernisation of the distribution network (see appended table).