The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's medium and long-term financing institution, has advanced a loan of 200 billion lire (ECU 104.3 million(1)) to the Cassa di Risparmio delle Province Lombarde. The loan is designed to provide support for small and medium-sized enterprises and smaller-scale infrastructural schemes throughout Italy, mainly in the Mezzogiorno, where it will be deployed via Cariplo by the Casse di Risparmio (savings banks) of Calabria, Apulia, Città di Castello, Rieti and Viterbo and by Mediocredito del Sud. In Central and Northern Italy, other Casse di Risparmio will be involved in distributing the funds.

The finance contract was signed today in Milan, by EIB Vice-President Massimo Ponzellini and the Managing Director of Cariplo, Dr. Carlo Salvatori, in the presence of Prof. Claudio Dematté, Vice-President of Cariplo and President of Fincarime, holding company for the Cariplo Group in the Mezzogiorno. Commenting on the loan, Vice-President Ponzellini stated: "This is an extremely important agreement, which will enable the EIB to respond to the new mandate handed down to it, within the context of the Amsterdam Summit, of stepping up support for the fabric of small and medium-sized enterprises, which today represent a valuable source of new job opportunities".

The loan will be directed towards financing, throughout Italy, small and medium-sized enterprises in tourism, industry, the energy sector and environmental protection, serving to boost the productivity and competitiveness of Italian industry, make more rational use of energy and provide more effective protection for the environment, as well as towards smaller-scale infrastructural schemes.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) was established in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome; its shareholders are all the Member States of the European Union. In 1996 alone, the EIB made aggregate financing available of ECU 23.2 billion (ITL 45 200 billion), around 90% of which went towards development projects within the European Union Member Countries. Of this amount, ECU 4.12 billion (ITL 8 030 billion) was advanced for capital investment in Italy.Under its policy of providing backing for small and medium-sized enterprises, the EIB has since the 1960s been advancing its "global loans", in effect medium and long-term lines of credit (from 5 to 15 years) open to banks and financial institutions which draw on the funds to grant loans in support of small and medium-scale investment schemes meeting the criteria set by the EIB.

(1) The conversion rates used by the EIB for statistical purposes during the current quarter are those obtaining on 30/6/1997, when ECU 1 = 0.68 GBP, 6.64 FRF, 1.13 USD, 0.75 IEP, 1 923 ITL.