EU funds East Europe transport, environment projects

BRUSSELS, Feb 18, 2000 -- (Reuters) The European Union said on Thursday it would spend 7 billion euros ($6.92 billion) on transport and environmental projects in 10 Eastern European candidate countries over the next seven years.

An official at the EU executive said the money - under the EU's pre-accession aid program called ISPA - would be split half and half between transport and environmental projects in the 10 countries.

The EU is currently negotiating membership terms with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia.

It is also holding membership talks with the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus, but making separate financial arrangements for them, as they are more wealthy than the former communist bloc states.

The EU has agreed to help the Eastern European countries improve their environmental policies and transport infrastructure as part of their economic preparations for membership.

The Commission official said that the EU would concentrate its work in he transport field on railway infrastructure and in the environmental field on projects to improve the quality of drinking water.

He said EU officials would visit each of the 10 countries in March and April to discuss projects which might benefit from the aid between 2000 and 2006.

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