The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's long term lending institution, is stepping into Italy's health and education sectors, with the financing of a public hospital in Padua and a technical university in Turin.

The Bank is advancing a EUR 51 million(1) loan to Azienda Ospedaliera di Padova (AOP) through the financial intermediation of Cassa di Risparmio di Padova. The loan aims at upgrading and rationalising the AOP's structures. The AOP, with a current total of over 2 000 beds, is the region's main provider of acute care hospital services. In 1997 it handled over 100 000 admissions.

The rationalisation of the hospital's structures, which covers a 5 year period until 2002, will allow optimal treatment of casualty and acute care as well as higher quality hospitalisation. The advanced technology and R&D activities of AOP, managed in conjunction with the Faculty of Medicine of Padua University, is expected to enhance the level of training and education activities made available to some 1 000 students and 800 doctors within the hospital.

The EIB has also concluded a EUR 62 million loan agreement with Politecnico di Torino, one of Italy's top ranking technical universities. The financing is being channelled through the San Paolo IMI banking group.

The project will expand the Politecnico in an adjacent area through the rehabilitation of a former"industrial" site owned by the state railways. Existing headquarters, located in the outskirts of Turin, will be redesigned. The quality of teaching premises and research laboratories will be raised by increasing the available space. A better allocation of resources and a higher internal efficiency will be achieved through the merging of two faculties (Engineering and Architecture) on the same campus.

The project is part of a programme agreement with the Italian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Works are expected to be completed by 2004.

The EIB was founded in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome. Its remit is to finance investment contributing to attainment of the European Union's objectives: fostering development in less favoured areas, supporting growth and employment, bolstering the competitiveness of the industrial sector, promoting small and medium-sized enterprises. EIB loans are directed towards economically viable projects in the fields of infrastructure, transport, energy, telecommunications, environmental protection, urban renewal, industry, services, health and education. In 1998, Italy confirmed its position as one of the EIB's major customers, alongside Germany and the United Kingdom, attracting aggregate lending of EUR 4.387 billion. As a general rule, EIB loans do not exceed 50% of a project's investment cost.

(1) EUR 1 = ITL 1 936.27, GBP 0.647500.