The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long-term financing institution, is lending ITL 100 billion (ECU 52 million) to Credito Italiano, to support small and medium scale projects in Italy.

EIB Vice President Massimo Ponzellini signed the global loan agreement today in Milan, together with the Credito Italiano Vice President Egidio Giuseppe Bruno.

Vice President Ponzellini, commenting on the loan said:" This is a further step to improve small and medium entrepreneurs' access to cost efficient funding from the EIB. One of the EIB's key aims, in support of the European Union priority objectives, is to support the activities of SME's ".

The loan will be on lent by Credito Italiano throughout Italy to promote schemes contributing to a more rational use of energy and projects to improve environmental protection, to increase the productivity and competitiveness of SME's, as well as for the realisation of small and medium sized infrastructure.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) was set up in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome and has as its shareholders all the Member States of the European Union. In 1996 alone it provided capital investment financing amounting to ECU 23.2 billion (45 200 billion ITL), around 90% of this going to projects in European Union countries. In that year, about ECU 4,12 billion (8 030 billion ITL) was channelled into investment in Italy. As part of its operations in support of Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME) the EIB has, since the end of the 1960s, been making use of an indirect financing facility: the Global Loan. This is effectively a line of credit made available on a medium to long-term basis (5 to 15 years) to banks or financial institutions which draw on it to advance sub-loans for small and medium sized ventures in line with criteria set by the EIB.

Conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 27/3/1997, when 1 ECU = 1 948.3 ITL, 0.71 GBP.