Europe releases first phase of €1 billion loan for Oosterweel


The long-awaited Oosterweel project officially breaks ground this summer, with €150 million released by the European Investment Bank

Ya gotta have faith

The government of Flanders has signed the first lending agreement with the European Investment Bank (EIB) for the Oosterweel project. The agreement will release €150 million to use on the project, which officially breaks ground this summer.

The Oosterweel Connection will close the circle of Antwerp’s ring road, the R1, providing a means for lorries from the port area to travel north to the Netherlands and east to Germany without having to drive in a broad circuit around the ring. Extending over a length of 15 kilometres, the project consists of a new tunnel under the river Scheldt and connections with the westbound E17 and N49, the northbound E19 and the eastbound E34/E313, also taking in Wallonia and Luxembourg.

Following a more than decade-long process of negotiations with neighbourhood groups and a 2010 referendum that changed the project entirely, preparation works finally began on the left side of the Scheldt last year. The works, expected to last at least seven years, also include tunnels under the city’s canals, which will be covered over to reduce fine particles and to create more urban space, including green space.

Removing barriers

“The European Investment Bank has shown its faith in Oosterweel – one of the biggest mobility and quality-of-life projects to be carried out in Europe in this century,” said mobility minister Ben Weyts at the signing on Friday in Brussels. “Only a few years ago, almost no one still believed in this project. But, step-by-step, we removed all the barriers, and Oosterweel now enjoys great support on both sides of the river.”

Weyts signed the first loan transfer agreement together with finance minister Lydia Peeters. It will release €150 million of the €1 billion promised by the European lending agency.

The first €150 million has an EIB margin on the interest rate of four basis points and a tenor of 40 years. The total cost of Oosterweel is €3.6 billion.

“The EIB is not just a bank, but a European institution with a very clear mission: to improve people’s lives through our investments,” said EIB director-general Luca Lazzaroli. “We supported this project from the start, and we are happy to see it take off. We expect that it will significantly improve the lives of people living in and around Antwerp, as well as conditions for those transiting through the area.”

Photo, from left: Flemish ministers Lydia Peeters and Ben Weyts sign the Oosterweel loan agreement with EIB director-general Luca Lazzaroli
©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA