The European Investment Bank is promoting “green cities” in Greece through a pioneering loan of EUR 50 million to the municipality of Heraklion in Crete.

The finance agreements were signed today at the EIB’s headquarters in Luxembourg by Mr Plutarchos Sakellaris, EIB Vice-President, and Mr Yiannis Kourakis, Mayor of Heraklion.

The investments aim at promoting local development to improve the quality of life of residents and visitors and mainly concern public spaces, road safety measures, environmental protection, cultural heritage and buildings for municipal services. They form part of the municipality’s "Green Heraklion 2008-2013" urban development programme.

On this occasion, EIB Vice-President Plutarchos Sakellaris stated: “Environmentally friendly and efficient urban infrastructure is key to the development and prosperity of cities. This investment in Heraklion will improve the quality and attractiveness of the city. It will moreover sustain economic growth in particular through the further development of cultural tourism. “Green development” is a top European priority. With our financial means and expertise, as the largest multilateral financing institution in the world and with a physical presence in Greece, the Bank is making a tangible contribution to this priority sector”.

Mr Yiannis Kourakis commented: “The EIB has always been a leading international partner of our country and supported our social and economic development by every means. The extension of a hefty amount of loans to finance “green cities” makes the EIB’s contribution even more tangible to Greek citizens throughout the country. I would like to express my satisfaction that Heraklion is pioneering this route forward to a better quality of life, and take this opportunity to thank the EIB for its fruitful cooperation. I strongly believe that this cooperation will further improve with new projects in the coming years”.

The project includes small to large-sized schemes, primarily in the fields of urban renewal and rehabilitation of municipal infrastructure and community facilities, but also embracing, where appropriate, environmental protection and energy saving schemes. It also comprises the city’s new Cultural and Conference Centre of Heraklion. The centre will host all the conference, cultural, educational and leisure activities in Heraklion, which with 140 000 inhabitants is the largest city in Crete and its administrative and economic centre.

The EIB loan will allow the municipality to fund its investments at a cost that is lower than its traditional funding sources whilst the long-term nature of the loan will enable it to spread the budgetary impact over a longer period. In Greece, local authorities are expected to assume a greater role in carrying out local infrastructure investments, favouring the increased prioritisation of investments. EIB participation in the financing of the investment programmes of local authorities in Greece can therefore play an important role in the future.

Note to editors:

The European Investment Bank supports the political and strategic objectives of the European Union by granting long-term loans for economically sound investment projects. The EIB’s shareholders are the 27 EU Member States. Total EIB lending rose by 21% in 2008 to EUR 57bn, compared to EUR 48bn in 2007. Loan signatures rose sharply towards the end of the year, reflecting the EIB's swift response to help underpin economic recovery at the request of the European Union's Member States. In Greece in 2008, the EIB provided a total of EUR 1 165m in loans, 54% up from the 2007 figure of EUR 755m.