The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is advancing a EUR 570 million(1) loan to Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA for the construction of a new fixed and mobile national telecommunications and data network.

Wind is a joint venture owned by ENEL (57%, Italy's main electricity supplier) and France Telecom (43%).

The project, which concerns one of the few convergent networks in the EU offering joint service (fixed, mobile and Internet), contributes to the policy objectives set at the March 2000 European Council summit in Lisbon, namely to foster the development of information technology and other telecom networks in the EU. It is also in line with the principles of the Bank's proposed Information 2000 Initiative (i2i) (2).

The project will allow new two-way mobile data services initially using the GSM infrastructure and WAP technology, followed by GPRS technology available by end-2000. WIND is expected to bid for a UMTS license and present investments can be integrated with UMTS technology. For the fixed network, both cable and radio technologies will be used in the "last mile" to gain direct access to customers.

Founded in 1958 with the prime mission of financing capital projects designed to promote a closer-knit Europe, particularly by furthering regional development, the EIB has since seen its remits steadily widened from its original goals of furthering regional-development-associated industrial competitiveness and integration, with the emphasis on smaller businesses (SMEs), to encompass consolidating secure energy supplies, safeguarding the environment and advancing implementation of trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks. Outside the European Union, the EIB supports the Union's cooperation and development aid policies in favour of a large number of partner countries. The Bank's shareholders are the Member States. The EIB raises its resources on the capital market, where it commands the finest terms by virtue of its "AAA" rating.

(1) 1 EUR = ITL 1936.27

(2) After the Lisbon European Council called upon the EIB to play an active role in the implementation of a new EU strategy to strengthen employment, economic reform and social cohesion as part of the emerging knowledge-based economy, the EIB adopted a dedicated lending and risk capital programme called "Innovation 2000 initiative" (i2i). This programme focuses on human capital, SMEs and entrepreneurship, as well as R&D, information technologies, networks and diffusion of innovation.