By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday paid tribute to the Finnish government for its unfailing developmental support to Namibia and expressed the hope that such assistance would continue. Lempy Lucas was speaking on the occasion of the opening of the new embassy of Finland Chancery. She also planted an indigenous tree as a symbol of the growing relationship between the Namibian and Finnish peoples. “Namibia and Finland share strong bonds which stretch over a century. The Finnish heritage has become entrenched in the Namibian culture, due not only to the fact that the Finnish missionaries were among the first Europeans to come to Namibia, but also to the respect with which they were viewed by many Namibians,” she said. The event was attended by a number of high-ranking government officials and representatives of foreign missions. “While we are glad that traditional relations such as those between our two countries’ churches continue, we do believe that new initiatives between our countries will receive added impetus by these new premises. This includes the development of trade and commerce with the emphasis on tourism,” Lucas said. She congratulated Finland for assuming the presidency of the European Union for the next six months and thanked it for the new concessional credit scheme that was established between the two countries. “We seek Finnish support to encourage your fellow decision-makers in the European Union to disburse funds allocated for SADC regional infrastructure projects. These projects will undoubtedly boost the economy and the investment climate of both Namibia and the SADC Region,” she said. Finnish ChargÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© d’Affaires, Seija Kinni-Huttenen, reminded the audience about her country’s financial contribution towards the development needs of Namibia. “Development cooperation has been focal in the relations between our two countries during 1990-2003, the total development financing amounting to 74 million Euros. In recent years, the focus has been changed to commercial and economic cooperation, exchange programmes, support to the Namibian civil society organizations and carefully targeted building initiatives in selected areas,” said Kinni-Huttenen, who pledged continued support. According to Kinni-Huttenen, the 25 European Union states annually collectively contribute 60 percent of Namibia’s development assistance needs, the contribution being about U$$105 million. “The European Union is Namibia’s biggest trade partner. Most Namibian exports go to the EU and total exports from Namibia to the EU totalled 913 million Euros in 2004 alone. Priority issues currently being discussed between Namibia and the EU include development cooperation, good governance, human rights, HIV/AIDS and the country’s land reform,” the ChargÃƒÆ’Ã†’Ãƒâ€ ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â ‘ÃƒÆ’Ã†”Ã…Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© d’Affaires pointed out.