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Brussels, 26 January 2009

Member States reinforce European Commission efforts to fund infrastructure projects in the EU neighbourhood

The signature of the "NIF Trust Fund Agreement" in the margins of the General Affairs and External Relations Council of 26 January 2009, will allow EU Member States to provide additional funds to the Neighbourhood Investment Facility, a key lever of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This Trust Fund has been opened by the European Investment Bank in order to receive Member States bilateral contributions for the funding of infrastructure projects to the Union's East and South. In 2008, € 37 million of additional contributions have been pledged by 15 Member State and will complement the € 100 million already provided by the EC Budget.

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs from the Czech Republic currently holding the Presidency of the EU declared: "Thanks to the creation of the NIF Trust Fund, Member States' direct contributions will reinforce the Community efforts and enhance the grant funds available for infrastructure projects in the EU neighbourhood region. Member States contributions give a positive sign to our ENP partner by showing that this new EC facility is strongly backed by EU countries".

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) underlined the importance of the Neighbourhood Investment Facility: "I am happy about the strong support given by the Member States to the NIF, created only a year ago. The NIF plays a key role in financing major projects which are visible for citizens in our neighbourhood and at the same time provides a concrete platform for coordinating all European actors to maximise the possibilities for funding of such big projects. It shows that we are serious about our offer of drawing partners closer".

The Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF) priorities are to support very large investment projects for infrastructures in the ENPI region focusing on transport, energy, and environment but also social and private sectors. Therefore, the Facility contributes to address some of our common major challenges with our partners (e.g. renewable energy promotion).

The amounts at stake for large infrastructure projects are huge and considerable financial resources are required. Today's signature of the NIF Trust Fund is a fundamental step to achieve a partnership bringing together grants from the European Commission and the EU Member States with loans from European public Finance Institutions as well as own contributions from the ENP partner countries.

The resources of the NIF Trust Fund will be used as of 2009 to finance projects together with the European Budget contribution. In 2008, 15 Member States already pledged € 37 million of additional contribution while the Commission took the commitment to contribute a total amount of € 700 million for the NIF for the period 2007-2013.

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