The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, announces a EUR 50 million (1) loan package, advanced under the new Euromed mandate, for development of rail transport as well as the private sector in Tunisia. These are the first two loans to be made available to a partner Mediterranean country under the new mandate entrusted to the EIB over the period 2000-2006. They break down as to:

  • EUR 25 million in favour of the Republic of Tunisia for completion of track doubling of the line between Tunis and Sousse and modernisation of the rail network in the Sousse area. These schemes to be implemented by the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens (SNCFT) over the period 2000-2005 are designed to cater for trends in the country's surface transport systems. Since 1978, the EIB has contributed more than EUR 232 million to financing large-scale transport projects in Tunisia, including upgrading of the country's main railway lines as well as rehabilitation of ports and urban roads, primarily in Tunis but also in other major cities.
  • EUR 25 million for medium and long-term financing of companies in the production and service sectors, undergoing restructuring (upgrading) and investing in expansion and modernisation of their activities. The EIB's support consists of a credit line open to the whole of the Tunisian financial sector. The approved Tunisian intermediary banks, responsible for identifying corporate projects, will on-lend the EIB funds to investors in local currency. This credit is the second supplementary tranche of an earlier EUR 50 million global loan facility advanced in 1998. During an initial phase, the latter was open to the following financial intermediaries: Amen Bank, Banque de Développement Économique de la Tunisie, Banque de Tunisie, Banque Internationale Arabe de Tunisie and Union des Banques pour le Commerce et l'Industrie.

The new operation complements lending from risk capital resources already provided by the EIB from 1997-1999, totalling EUR 64 million. The amount which the EIB has committed to the Tunisian corporate restructuring programme as a whole now runs to EUR 139 million in all.

In keeping with the Barcelona Process, these EIB loans support the Tunisian authorities' efforts to promote the development of a more open economy and are intended both to assist companies in preparing for market liberalisation and to reinforce transport networks with a view to progressive establishment of a free trade area with the European Union.

The EIB is a lead player in implementing the EU's "Euro-Mediterranean Partnership" and its priority objectives. In this context, a mandate has been handed down for the period 2000-2006 to provide up to EUR 6 425 million of funding for projects in the twelve Mediterranean partner countries that have signed cooperation and/or association agreements with the EU. The Framework Contract governing the EIB's operations in Tunisia under this mandate was signed in July 1997. Since it began operations in Tunisia in 1978, the EIB has lent over EUR 1 billion in all to finance various industrial, agricultural-processing, transport and environmental projects, including EUR 85 million in the form of risk capital. The EIB has been managing risk capital on behalf of the EU since the end of the 1980s.

(1) EUR 1 = 1.23505 TND, 0.613400 GBP.