The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term lending arm of the European Union, is assigning a further EUR 800 million to its Loan Facility in favor of European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member countries, thus bringing it to EUR 2.5 billion, and extends it until 31 December 2009.

This Loan Facility was initiated by the EIB in 1994, to finance projects with direct EU interest, in the various EFTA member states - today Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Its main objective is indeed to support the close economic ties between the EU and EFTA countries, in particular in the sectors of Energy, Renewable Energy, Trans-European Networks (mainly Transport, but also Energy and Telecommunication corridors), as well as Research Development and Innovation.

So far, 24 projects have been signed for a total amount of EUR 1.7 billion. The EIB notably helped finance the construction and extension of several geothermal power plants in Iceland, the extension and upgrading of the Reykjavik wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure, the construction of a new four-lane motorway on the E18 corridor in Norway, or fundamental research facilities at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland.

The Chairmanship of the EFTA Council is currently held by Norway. During a meeting held on Monday in Oslo with Ms Kristin Halvorsen, the Norwegian Minister of Finance, Mr Sauli Niinistö, Vice-President of the EIB stated: The Loan Facility has been a great success so far. We are proud to be able to continue the EIB's lending activity in the four EFTA countries, which shall further enhance the close economic cooperation between EFTA and the EU.

The European Investment Bank finances capital investment furthering EU objectives, in particular: regional development, research, development and innovation, trans-European transport, telecom and energy networks; industrial competitiveness; SMEs, and environmental protection. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's policy for co-operation and development. Owned by the EU Member States, the EIB raises its funds on the capital markets (AAA-rated issuer). In 2004, it borrowed EUR 50bn and lent a total of EUR 43bn, of which EUR 40bn in the EU-25.