This gathering was a symbolic goodbye. In July, Hungary announced that it would be closing its embassies in two fellow EU member states, Estonia and Cyprus, by mid-September. Many were shocked and surprised by this sudden decision. Unsurprisingly offended, Estonia announced it would also be closing its embassy in Budapest.
People gathered in front of the embassies to solemnly say goodbye and contemplate the meaning of the closures. The event was accompanied by the singing of songs in Hungarian and Estonian.
Hungary and Estonia are not only EU and NATO member states, but are also both Finno-Ugric. Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian are part of the same language family. The three are also the only Finno-Ugric languages that have corresponding nation-states. These language ties are the reason there is active cultural activity between the countries.
“Many intellectuals, university teachers, academics and anyone who has had contact with Estonia-Hungarian relations were deeply saddened to learn about the closure”, commented Virág Mária Márkus from the Estonian Institute in Hungary. The institute has one full-time and one part-time employee, who usually engage in organising cultural events. Now, they are likely to see a significant growth in the amount of people who turn to them for assistance.
According to her, the honour and responsibility of continuing ties between the countries now lies with the people. This is a difficult and yet a noble task to continue cultural ties without the existence of official diplomatic representations.
She also adds that paradoxically recent years have shown a boom in Estonia-Hungarian relations: “This is so in the field of literature, architecture, design or music, there is a constant coming and going between Hungary and Estonia. I believe that today, especially due to the closing of the embassies, the fact of being language relatives has emerged and these connections are being activated in people’s minds and hearts as well, no doubt.”
The official reasons given by Hungary have been said to be mainly economical. Officially there should be no change in attitude towards Estonia. At the same time it can be considered a strange political shift to close embassies in Estonia and Cyprus and open embassies in Ecuador and Mongolia from the 1st of January 2015.
It is for everyone interested in the matter to contemplate over such an action between two European Union countries. In the minds of the people the two countries should be friends and allies in all ways, cultural and political.
In the Estonian press, hope has been expressed that one day this decision may be reversed, but this is not something people can count on in the near future.