The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union's financing institution, is renewing two agreements for EUR 20 million each with Cofiloisirs S.A. and Natexis Coficiné S.A to co-finance projects relating to the production and distribution of audiovisual works in France and other EU countries.

These two agreements follow on from two similar operations arranged in November 2001, which led to the EIB and the two above-mentioned specialist institutions co-financing some 30 European audiovisual productions (films, TV films and TV series) with production cost estimates running to almost EUR 260 million. A number of the projects financed were co-productions involving partners from several EU countries (France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom), which were distributed throughout Europe and, in some cases, outside the Union, in the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia.

Implementation of the first two agreements, which used up practically the entire EUR 40 million available, illustrates the relevance of the facility introduced in 2001 to encourage the emergence of European-scale audiovisual projects: the advantage of this method of co-financing is that, firstly, it enables Cofiloisirs and Natexis Coficiné to boost their financing capacity thanks to the EIB and, secondly, it offers risk-sharing with the EIB. This dual impact helps to offset the lack of resources besetting the audiovisual sector for pan-European projects and to facilitate access to credit by enterprises, especially independent producers.

In line with the precedent set in 2001, the signatories to these new agreements plan to support the funding of a similar number of cinematographic or audiovisual productions drawing on the established expertise of Cofiloisirs and Natexis Coficiné (as well as of their core shareholders: Natexis Banques Populaires (NBP) on the one hand, and Banque Odier, Bungener, Courvoisier S.A. (OBC), BNP Paribas and the Dexia Group on the other. As for the first operation, Natexis Coficiné and Cofiloisirs will serve as the points of contact for the beneficiaries of this facility and, as such, will appraise projects submitted, subject to the EIB's approval, and be responsible for concluding and monitoring finance contracts.

These agreements come under the EIB Group's Innovation 2010 Initiative (Audiovisual i2i), set up to offer Europe's film and audiovisual industry a package of financial instruments equipping it to meet the cultural and technological challenges it faces in a globalised economy. Since 2001, the EIB Group has advanced financing to the European audiovisual sector to the tune of EUR 569 million in EIB loans, as well as EUR 119 million in equity participations by the European Investment Fund (EIF) in 10 venture capital funds specialising in equity financing of audiovisual SMEs.

The "i2i-AV" programme forms an integral part of the "i2i" Initiative introduced in June 2000 by the EIB Group to support the development of a knowledge-based and innovation-driven European economy. To take account of the long-term objectives of the "Lisbon strategy", the EIB's Governors, at their annual meeting on 3 June last, approved renewal of this programme: the Innovation 2010 Initiative. As both a continuation and refocusing of "i2i", i2i-2010 centres on Group measures up to the end of the decade and sets a new indicative lending package of EUR 20 billion from June 2003 until end-2006. At that juncture, the EIB Group will conduct a mid-term assessment with a view to fine-tuning the Initiative's priorities and instruments up to the end of 2010. Since June 2000, financing already committed under i2i amounts to EUR 14.5 billion in EIB loans and EUR 2.5 billion in EIF venture capital.