The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, has granted an ITL 101 billion (EUR 52 million) loan to the Municipality of Bologna for projects to enhance the city's urban environment.

The capital works financed will focus on sectors such as cultural assets, transport facilities, infrastructure and redevelopment. With regard to cultural assets, the EIB will support schemes undertaken by the municipality to safeguard, preserve and restore the artistic and architectural heritage of Bologna, which is to be one of the European Cultural Capitals in the year 2000. The loan will also help to bring buildings into line with safety standards, overcome architectural constraints, restructure and save ancient buildings.

From the point of view of improving urban mobility and traffic flows, the proceeds of this credit line will be devoted to road infrastructure, parking facilities and cycle tracks as well as traffic control and user information systems. On the urban development front, schemes will centre on demolition of obsolete structures, land reclamation, urbanisation works and primary infrastructure systems.

The financing agreement was signed today in Bologna town hall by EIB Vice-President Massimo Ponzellini and Bologna's mayor, Walter Vitali.

"With this loan, the EIB confirms its commitment to Italian local authority investment already demonstrated with the opening of a similar line of credit for the Municipality of Florence and with the works financed in connection with the Jubilee. In the field of urban renewal the Bank is increasing its lending in Italy and more generally within Europe, in line with the guidelines laid down by the Amsterdam European Council and with the European Union's objectives with respect to sustainable urban development", said Massimo Ponzellini, EIB Vice-President, at the signing ceremony.

Since adoption of the Amsterdam Special Action Programme in July 1997, the EIB has granted new loans totalling some ITL 6 000 billion (EUR 3 billion) in the urban development sector.

The EIB was set up in 1958 with the remit of financing projects designed to achieve EU objectives, particularly in the fields of regional development, trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks, and the environment. In response to the Amsterdam Resolution on growth and employment (June 1997), the Bank approved extension of its operations to embrace the health, education and urban development sectors, serving to generate stable job opportunities. Over the period 1997 to 2000, the Bank will be providing EUR 10 billion for these sectors, promoting innovative SMEs, environmental protection and trans-European networks.

1 euro = 0.705455 GBP, 1 936.27 ITL.