Mr Sauli Niinistö, the recently appointed Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, the European Union's financing institution, has signed two new EIB loans in Finland. Mr. Niinistö, whose responsibilities include Finland, Sweden, the Baltic States and Russia, signed on 10 October loan agreements for hospital infrastructure and health care investments by the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (EUR 30 million) and for the expansion of Science Parks in Finland (EUR 45 million to Technopolis PLC).

The EIB loan to Technopolis will support its 2003-2005 investment programme comprising the construction and/or renovation of laboratory and research premises located in three Science Parks, Oulu (Technopolis Oulu ) as well as in Espoo (Technopolis Innopoli) and Vantaa (Technopolis Helsinki-Vantaa), both in the Helsinki area. The premises will be leased to research-intensive companies active in sectors such as biotechnology, electronics and environment as well as research institutes like VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and higher education institutes such as Espoo-Vantaa Polytechnic.

All three Science Parks are qualified as national Centres of Expertise and form an integral part of the government's technology policy and regional development programme. These Centres of Expertise aim to create a favourable infrastructure for business on a regional level, providing research infrastructure and services in order to induce commercialisation of research innovations. The programme aims to maintain Finland's position as one of the leading EU countries in terms of R&D as a proportion of GPD. The borrower for this loan is Technopolis PLC, a company listed on the Helsinki Stock Exchange.

EIB financing for the Science Parks falls under its Innovation Initiative (i2i), which will remain a key priority for the Bank. The prolongation of the i2i programme as far ahead as 2010, reflects the long-term nature of the Lisbon and Barcelona objectives, aimed at fostering the development of a knowledge- and innovation based European economy.

The Hospital investment programme in the Uusimaa region (located in the south of Finland) supported with an EIB loan of EUR 30 million, concerns a series of health care investments carried out by the Joint Authority for the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa over the period 2002-2005. It includes a number of small and medium-sized schemes in hospital infrastructure (new buildings and refurbishment of existing buildings), the procurement of diagnostic, therapeutic and research equipment as well as IT. As a result of the project, high quality health care services are expected to be provided for the resident population in a cost-effective manner throughout the region of Uusimaa.

The EIB gives high priority to investments in the Education and Health sectors in parallel to investments in infrastructure, so as to ensure balanced development and social cohesion.

Mr. Sauli Niinistö, EIB Vice-President, said: The hospital programme to be part-financed by the EIB is to improve the quality of public service in Finland. Furthermore, parts of the projects are consistent with the criteria for investments under the EIB's Innovation Initiative i2i, where the Bank recently extended its initial support beyond 2003 and made it a priority for its lending until 2010. In the specific case of the Science Parks, the EIB is pleased to support a project that will enhance long-term co-operation among public and private actors.

The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular: regional development, trans-European transport, telecom and energy networks; industrial competitiveness; SMEs, and environmental protection. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's policy for co-operation and development. Owned by its Member States, the EIB raises its funds on the capital markets (AAA-rated issuer). As part of its remit, the EIB supports the development of infrastructure networks with a Community dimension, notably in the transport sector.

Within the EU, the EIB priorities include regional development, economic and social cohesion, environmental protection, and an innovative, competitive European economy. Priority is further given to the economic integration of the future Member States into the Union. In 2002, regional development absorbed an aggregate EUR 22.9 billion in the present and future EU Member States.

EIB financing in support of the EU's strategy for a competitive information and knowledge-based economy amounted to EUR 3.6 billion in 2002.

New EIB Vice-President

Mr. Sauli Niinistö was recently appointed Vice-President of the European Investment Bank and member of its Management Committee. He succeeds Mr. Ewald Nowotny. Mr. Niinistö, who was appointed by the Board of Governors on a proposal by Austria, Sweden and Finland, was Deputy Prime Minister of Finland from 1995 until 2001. A lawyer by education, he was a member of the Finnish government as Minister of Justice from 1995 until 1996 and Minister of Finance from 1996 until 2003. He chaired his party, Kokoomus (National Coalition Party), from 1994 until 2001. Mr Niinistö was Chairman of the European Democratic Union (EDU) 1998-2002 and has since 2002 been Honorary Chairman of EPP (European People's Party). He began his career in 1976 as Senior Secretary of the Turku Court of Appeal where he later became a judge (1994-1995). In between (1978-1988), he worked as an Attorney at Law in Salo. He obtained a legal degree (LL.M) from the University of Turku in 1974. He was born in 1948 in the city of Salo.