The European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing institution, is granting two loans totalling EUR 260 million for the modernisation of 30 hospitals in Tunisia and to support long-term investment by the country's SMEs. These operations are being financed under the EIB's new "Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), whose aim is to foster development of the private sector and its socio-economic environment. They can be described as follows:

  • EUR 110 million are being devoted to the modernisation or expansion of the infrastructure and improvement of the technical capabilities of thirty Tunisian regional hospitals. This group of investments forms part of the Tunisian "Tenth Economic and Social Development Plan" which, under its Public Health component, aims to raise the share of GDP devoted to expenditure on health to 6%, and to bring the service into line with the epidemiological and demographic development of the country. It will relate more specifically to those hospital services where modernisation will have a positive impact on the reduction of infantile and perinatal mortality, the improvement of adolescent health-care and the treatment of traumatic pathology and internal medicine. In certain cases, the project will also extend to modernisation of the psychiatry services. The EIB's financing, given its exceptionally long term (20 years), with grace periods tailored to the speed of implementation of the schemes (up to 2007), represents a major contribution to achievement of the goals of the Tenth Plan, under optimal financial conditions from the standpoint of the Tunisian social budget.
  • EUR 150 million are being provided to a number of public and private banks or leasing companies for financing Tunisian SMEs in the industrial and services segment, including those operating in the tourism, health and training sectors. This is the third global operation of this type since 1998, designed to provide Tunisian enterprises, via local banks with knowledge of the market, with the long-term resources required to finance their development, at the EIB's advantageous rates of interest. By way of example, the previous operation, involving EUR 100 million, enabled 65 investments to be financed, with a total value of EUR 404 million, and resulted in the creation of almost 3 000 jobs. This latest operation extends the EIB's role by providing bespoke resources for Tunisian leasing companies allowing them to respond better to the needs of their clients. Not only does the EIB's support for development of the Tunisian private sector correspond to the principal aim of its activities in the Mediterranean Partner Countries (see below), but it also supports the Government's policies to improve the competitiveness of its economy and to create employment.

The two operations signed today in Tunis are highly representative of the objectives of EIB's new "Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership" (FEMIP), established following the Barcelona European Council (15 and 16 March 2002) and inaugurated in October 2002. FEMIP accords absolute priority to the development of private sector economic activity (in particular SMEs, a source of economic dynamism and employment), and to projects contributing to the creation of a favourable climate for private investment (such as those in the health and education sectors). With a budget of between EUR 8 and EUR 10 billion up to 2006, FEMIP's ultimate aim is to assist the Mediterranean Partner Countries (MPC) in confronting the challenges of their social and economic modernisation and improved regional integration, looking ahead to the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area (planned for 2010). Between October 2002 and May 2003, over EUR 1.5 billion of new operations were approved under FEMIP, more than 35% of which targeting private-sector development. The loan for Tunisia's health infrastructure is the second of its type granted under FEMIP, following an EUR 100 million operation for the rehabilitation and development of 18 hospitals in Syria (November 2002).

The EIB has been operating in Tunisia, as an element of the financial co-operation between the EU and this country, since 1978. Its loans, totalling almost EUR 1.8 billion, are concentrated on projects that have a fundamental impact on the economic development of the country, such as the financing of private enterprises, water supply and treatment, industrial pollution abatement and waste management, urban roads and the Tunis public transport system, the Tunisian rail network, the ports of Tunis and Sfax, and electricity distribution. Tunisia is the third largest beneficiary of EIB financing among the Mediterranean Partner Countries.