Derk Jan Eppink is a Dutch journalist and politician in the Netherlands. He is the former cabinet secretary for European Commissioners Bolkestein. In 2009, he was elected to the European Parliament for List Dedecker. He also was appointed vice president of the friendship group.
There are concerns that he is a pro-Chinese politician and promotes their interest in Europe.
The traditional friendship group in the European Parliament, like the EU-China Friendship Group, has an irregular status. Officially, such groups do not have any authorized level in the European parliament. However, the European Parliament recognizes them as a concept.
The European Parliament’s website remarks that ‘MEPs sometimes create unofficial groups to discuss relations with non-EU countries. These “friendship groups,” sometimes supported by lobbyists or foreign governments, are not official European Parliament organizations.’ The Members of these Groups may use it as a tool by funding countries. A similar case is the MEP Derk Jan Eppink.
According to our information, Derk Jan Eppink is the only Dutch MEP who is or has been a member of the EU-China Friendship Group. Derk Jan Eppink also documented his involvement in a written response to Follow the Money. At an event in Strasbourg, ‘in the company of Chinese diplomats, Eppink also spoke a few words.’. This development raises serious concerns that he is working for the Chinese government.
Eppink declares that he was appointed vice-president of the friendship group. He said that he was being nominated because he speaks Mandarin. ‘It became my job to regale Chinese delegations to the European Parliament with a friendly speech,’ Eppink says. However, when he returned as an MEP in 2019, he was again appointed.
Under the Eppink period, the group carried out many activities related to China in the EU parliament. A Chinese delegation visit to the Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee also occurred, and Eppink’s group organized a few activities during that period.
According to extensive research by the Czech think-tank Sinopsis, the actions of the EU-China Friendship Group, such as trips to China, created possibilities for the Chinese state media to record positive comments made by European politicians. China is trying to exert political influence, But this friendship group succeeded somewhat.
Furthermore, The MEP’s statements related to China are used as a propaganda tool for the Chinese public. At the same time, it is helpful for China when MEPs speak positively or neutrally about China in the European media.
Moreover, no official record of former friendship group members exists. Sources asked the European Parliament for all documents related to the EU-China Friendship Group. There were hardly any. ‘Given that the EU-China Friendship Group is not an official parliamentary body, [the European Parliament] has no documents relating to its activities,’ Klaus Welle, Secretary-General of the European Parliament, wrote in an official response to FTM’s freedom of information request.
Derk Jan Eppink, along with three MEPs from the Forum for Democracy/JA21, abstained from voting on China resolutions and explained. ‘We abstain from voting on foreign policy as a matter of principle. We believe that this authority belongs to the member states. In exceptional circumstances, we may act differently.’ This portrays that they didn’t want to go against China.