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»The story of the EIB - our bank - is vivid testimony to the power and success of the European ideal,« says Slovenian Finance Minister Bajuk.

The current President of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), Slovenian Finance Minister Andrej Bajuk, today took part in the event to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt. He later addressed participants at the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the opening of a new EIB building in Luxembourg.

Ten years ago, in May 1998, the European Council took the formal decision to take economic and monetary union a step further and to introduce the euro. With it came the formal establishment of the ECB, which started operating on 1 June 1998. On the tenth anniversary of both decisions, Dr Bajuk observed that the introduction of the euro has been a political as well as an economic success. It has ensured stability of prices, interest rates and exchange rates, contributing at the same time to the consolidation of public finances. Last year, the eurozone recorded the lowest average government deficit since 1973. The euro has played a key role in improving the integration of financial markets and has secured a place as an anchor, the second most important reserve currency in global terms. It has also contributed to the creation of 16 million new jobs since 1992. In the last 10 years, the eurozone has expanded from the original 11 to the present 15 member states, with good prospects of further enlargement to include Slovakia next year.

This success could not have been possible without a strong and independent ECB, which has fulfilled expectations and the mandate it was granted. Dr Bajuk commended the responsible work it had performed, particularly in the period of long-lasting financial shake-ups. He also advocated open dialogue on how to improve the functioning of economic and monetary union in the years ahead with a view to maximising benefits for European citizens.

In his speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the EIB, Dr Bajuk underlined, »The EIB was established by the Treaty of Rome in 1958. At that time, nobody could have foreseen that in 50 years' time the Bank would become the largest international financial institution in the world. Today, the Bank has 27 members and supports cohesion, innovation, environmental sustainability, the TENs, SMEs, and sustainable, competitive and secure energy as its main operational priorities. Although the bulk of operations are in the EU, the EIB also actively operates in neighbouring countries and regions and beyond. In 2007, the volume of its lending amounted nearly €48 billion, far exceeding that of the World Bank. The 50th anniversary celebration offers an ideal opportunity to acknowledge everyone who over the years has contributed to the present standing of the Bank: its Presidents, especially the current President, Mr Philippe Maystadt, governors, directors and members of staff.«

The Minister also emphasised that the Bank is a long way from coming to the end of its activities, »The Bank has become an important financial instrument in the implementation of EU policies, playing the role of catalyst in the funding of projects. Being sensitive to the needs of local environments, the EIB passes benefits on to the final beneficiaries, thereby honouring its commitment to act as a non-profit institution. With its accumulated expertise and knowledge of the local environment and of different sectors, the Bank plays a key role in helping members increase private sector involvement in the delivery of public services and facilitating the private financing of infrastructure projects.«

He also underscored the Bank's role in supporting EU candidate and potential candidate countries in their preparations for membership. He cited the example of Slovenia, where more than 50% of the total value of operations which the EIB supported until that time in Slovenia was signed at the time of Slovenian accession to the EU, although the first contracts were signed back in 1977.

In concluding, Dr Bajuk turned his attention to the new building: »In all its actions, the EIB takes account of and supports sustainable development. This also includes due regard for the environment. It therefore comes as no surprise that this building is fully compliant with all environmental requirements, is energy efficient and uses renewable energy sources. It is our firm belief, and our hope, that others will follow the example which has been set.«


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Date: 06.06.2008