Under the Facility for Euro-Mediterranean Investment and Partnership (FEMIP), Mr de Fontaine Vive, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) in charge of FEMIP, has signed two global loans for a total amount of EUR 180 million, in the presence of Mr Jouini, Minister for Development and International Cooperation. This amount is 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. These are the fourth and fifth global loans of this type since 1998, designed to provide Tunisian enterprises, via local banks, with the long-term resources required to finance their development, at the EIB's favourable rates of interest. By way of example, the previous operation, involving EUR 150 million, enabled 725 investments to be financed, with a total value of EUR 500 million, and resulted in the creation of almost 5 000 jobs. 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, but it also underpins the Government's policies to improve the competitiveness of its economy and create employment.

An initial operation promoting Tunisian technology parks to the tune of EUR 60 million has been signed with six financial intermediaries - Amen Bank (AB), Arab Tunisian Bank (ATB), Banque de l'habitat (BH), Banque internationale arabe de Tunisie (BIAT), Banque tuniso-koweitienne de développement (BTKD) and Société tunisienne de banque (STB); a second operation, for an amount of EUR 120 million, was signed with five banks and three leasing companies (AB, ATB, BH, BTKD, Union Bancaire pour le Commerce et l'Industrie (UBCI), Arab Tunisian Lease (ATL), Compagnie Internationale de Leasing (CIL) and Tunisie Leasing (TL).

The main objective of the Technopoles Global Loan is to provide, via the selected banks, medium and long-term finance in support of projects in the priority high-value-added sectors targeted by the Tunisian authorities through their technology parks programme. These sectors are: renewable energy, water and environment, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, mechanical engineering, electronics and IT, telecommunications, textiles and agri-business. The final beneficiaries will be private companies that wish to carry out small and medium-scale investment in the creation of production units in sectors covered by the technology parks programme.

The objective of the second loan is to continue to provide, through the selected financial intermediaries, banks and leasing companies, long-term finance for new investments and for extension, modernisation or rehabilitation projects carried out by private companies operating in the industrial and services sectors, including tourism, health and education. The loan will strengthen the financial sector, foster a more diversified market economy and help Tunisian companies to adjust to the fiercer competition generated by a liberalised economy and the gradual implementation of the free trade area with the European Union.

In 2005, the European Investment Bank has granted a total of EUR 260 million in support of Tunisia, all aimed, directly or indirectly, at promoting the private sector. Since 1998, total commitments in the form of medium and long-term finance to Tunisian enterprises amount to EUR 505 million.

Mr de Fontaine Vive stated that promoting private sector development remained the priority task of FEMIP, whose role was strengthened by the Euro-Mediterranean Summit in Barcelona that ended on Monday 28 November 2005. Mr de Fontaine Vive will also participate in the Euro-Mediterranean Enterprise Forum organised in Sousse on 2 and 3 December by the Institut Arabe des Chefs d'entreprises (Arab Institute of Business Leaders).