The European Investment Bank (EIB), the long-term financing arm of the European Union (EU), has unveiled a co-operation agreement with Federtrasporti and Associazione Nazionale dei Comuni Italiani (ANCI -National Association of Italian Municipalities) designed to pinpoint capital projects of mutual interest in the urban transport sector. The Framework Agreement was signed in Rome by EIB Vice-President Massimo Ponzellini, Federtrasporti Chairman, Enrico Mingardi, and ANCI Chairman, Leonardo Domenici.

Within the compass of schemes covered both by legislation on transport-sector funding and by financing operations provided for under Italian regulatory law as well as under Community Structural Fund regulations over the period 2000-2006, Federtrasporti and ANCI will apprise the EIB of the strategic priorities and operational guidelines of their associated public and private-sector urban transport undertakings. Projects brought forward to the EIB for financing will centre on schemes that can be seen through within a time frame of three years in the local transport and related urban infrastructure sectors. Both Federtrasporti and ANCI will liaise closely with the Bank in spelling out the corresponding financing requirements in terms of sources of funds already accounted for and those yet to be identified.

EIB funding will be on offer in a variety of forms: drawdowns from global loan credit lines; direct or intermediated loans; with, in some cases, scope for outright grant aid for feasibility and allied project studies.

Hitherto, Bank lending in Italy's urban renewal sector has targeted six municipalities (Florence, Bologna, Venice, Naples, Rome and Palermo), which have between them attracted some EUR 500 million in all.

The EIB was established in 1958 to finance projects geared to achieving the objectives of the European Union, particularly in the spheres of regional development, trans-European transport, telecommunications and energy networks, and the environment. In response to invitations handed down from the June 1997 Amsterdam and June 1999 Cologne European Councils, the Bank has stepped up its support for urban renewal schemes. Over the past five years (1995-1999), projects designed to enhance the quality of life for Europe's city dwellers have mobilised EUR 10 billion worth of EIB financing, mostly focused on uprating associated urban transport facilities and infrastructure (tram, bus and light railway lines, feeder tunnels and relief roads in suburban areas). In 1999 alone, the EIB provided loans totalling EUR 31.8 billion under this heading, of which EUR 4.05 billion benefited projects in Italy.