In 2001, Italy proved to be one of the European Investment Bank's main customers, attracting loans totalling EUR 5.4 billion. Particular beneficiaries were the energy and telecommunications sectors (up 50% to EUR 1.9 billion) and SMEs (up 42% to EUR 2.3 billion).
These results were announced by EIB President Philippe Maystadt and Vice-President Massimo Ponzellini at a press conference held at the Ministry of Economics and Finance in Rome.
Projects in the energy and telecommunications sectors included the modernisation of ENEL's production capacity and network, especially in the Centre-South of Italy, upgrading and extension of the TERNA power transmission grid and construction of Wind's new fixed and mobile network.
The EIB provided substantial backing for Italian SMEs in cooperation with the domestic banking sector, notably for extending the network of regional intermediaries and underpinning the leasing sector (over 20 000 SMEs financed in the past 5 years for investment totalling more than EUR 3.2 bn). Worthy of particular mention in the infrastructure sector are: funding for urban regeneration projects (Municipalities of Salerno, Rimini, Reggio Emilia and Lecce); a EUR 155 million loan to the Basilicata region (co-financing with the Structural Funds of projects included in the Regional Operational Plan under the Community Support Framework 2000-2006); finance for modernising some twenty ports, constructing the Milan-Bologna section of the high-speed train network (TAV) and widening a section of the Florence-Bologna line.
During his visit to Italy, President Maystadt signed four new loans:
- EUR 300 million to the Campania Region for part financing projects promoted by the Region under the 2000-2006 Regional Operational Plan (ROP);
- EUR 150 million to ASTM (Autostrade Torino-Milano SpA) for funding works to upgrade and improve safety on the Turin-Milan section of the A4 motorway;
- EUR 300 million to BNL to provide medium and long-term support for leasing projects undertaken by SMEs;
- EUR 100 million to BNL, the EIB's first financing operation for small and medium-scale ventures in the media/audiovisual sector in Italy.
In 2001, the EIB's Department for Lending Operations in Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus, based in Rome and headed by Thomas Hackett, arranged loans totalling EUR 7.1 bn.