The European Investment Bank has changed in many ways since its creation in 1958. At the beginning there were six shareholders - today, there are 27; its capital has risen from one billion units of account at the beginning to almost 164 billion in 2007 and 232 billion in April 2009; and the scope of its activities has altered as the European Union has expanded and the international economic environment has developed.

Union of six (1958-1972)

During the first phase of its existence, the bank's main activity was granting loans. Just a few months after it was set up, the EIB was receiving and assessing loan applications relating to telecommunications, transport and energy as well as industries undergoing conversion.

The projects for which the EIB granted loans had to be in line with the bank's tasks, which included limiting regional disparities, improving infrastructure to encourage the free movement of persons and goods and limiting the pressures caused by increased competition as old industries were modernised and converted. In the period up until 1972, the main beneficiary of the regional development loans was Italy, receiving more than 60% of the funding granted by the EIB to member states.

Until 1972, almost four-fifths of the sums committed in the EEC were dedicated to regional development. Less than a fifth of the loans were related to projects of common interest, most of these had to do with infrastructure development. As for projects aimed at modernising or converting companies, they represented only 2.5% of the bank's funding.

As of 1970, the EIB also took on the role of guaranteeing loans. Between 1970 and 1972 though, loan guarantees only accounted for 5% of the bank's total activity.

Funds: From the start, the bank had its own resources: its capital and a reserve fund. The EIB's first loans were granted from paid-in capital, but this soon proved to be insufficient. As of 1961, the bank turned to the capital markets for borrowings and it was during the 1960s that the bank established its reputation on the financial markets.

The outstanding loans and guarantees could not exceed 250% of the subscribed capital and so to respect this rule and develop its operations, the bank increased its capital, in April 1971. In addition to its own resources and the capital markets, there were also external funds relating to financial aid to be granted to countries associated with the EEC.aThe bank worked closely with the European Commission and its...

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