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EIB releases first tranche of Oosterweel Link loan

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Flemish Government have signed an agreement for the a 150 million euro loan to help finance the construction of the Oosterweel Link in Antwerp. The Oosterweel Link will fill a missing link on Antwerp’s orbital motorway and help relieve traffic congestion in and around the port city. The 150 million euro loan is the first tranche of the 1 billion euro that the EIB agreed to lend the Flemish Government to help pay for the project, the total cost of which is estimated to be around 3.5 billion euro. 

The first 150,000 million euro of the loan was released on Friday after the necessary documents had been signed by the Flemish Transport Minister Ben Weyts (nationalist), the Flemish Finance Minister Lydia Peeters (liberal) and the EIB’s Director Luca Lazzeroli. Work on the Oosterweel link got underway a year ago on the left bank of the River Schelde.  

"The whole world passes through Antwerp"

Mr Lazzaroli told journalists that the importance of the Oosterweel Link goes much further than just Antwerp or Flanders.

"It is a European project. We know how important it is to uphold the EU’s competitiveness and this project is very important”, the Director of the EIB said at the signing ceremony.

Mr Lazzaroli added that alongside digital connectivity, physical connectivity remains important. “The whole world passes through Antwerp”, Mr Lazzaroli said.

In or outside the budget?

Meanwhile, The Flemish Government says that it hopes to be able to convince the European Commission that the project should not be included in the Flemish budget.

The Flemish Government and the European Commission have been in disagreement for some years about whether the cost of building the link should be included in the budget or not. With a total price tag of around 3.5 billion euro spread over 5 or 6 years, including the Oosterweel Link in the budget would make it difficult for Flanders to keep within the budgetary constraints set for Eurozone countries.

The Flemish Finance Minister is optimistic. At Friday’s signing ceremony Ms Peeters told journalists that "The fact that we have now been given this loan is a very important statement”.