Yana Toom is an Estonian politician acting as a Member of the European Parliament since 2014. She is a member of the Estonian Centre Party. She was born to ethnic Russian immigrant parents. Toom became a naturalized citizen of Estonia in 2008. Yana Toom is a member of the Chinese friendship group in Europe. MEPs who are members of alleged groups and accept drinks and snacks at a European-Chinese party may be pro-Chinese MEPSs.
The friendship group, an unofficial group of MEPs tilted towards China, was established in 2006. It held a conference in Strasbourg in October 2019. According to the news website Politico Europe, the event was paid for by the Chinese EU embassy. According to statements by MEPs, members of the friendship group have, on several events, been invited on trips to China at the payment of the Chinese state.
The Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party also sponsored a trip last year for Yana Toom. According to disclosures the MEP made last year, she is the current member of the Friendship Group, to Beijing and Shanghai for an event on China’s cooperation with Eastern European countries.
Yana Toom commented on 11 December 2019 that the Chinese Communist Party had paid her travel costs and lodging for a conference on Chinese partnership with Central and Eastern European countries. However, that was for a guarantee of a pro-Chinese stance. Over the following year and a half, Toom voted for the broad new Hong Kong resolution, the critical Uyghur resolution, and also voted in favor in January 2021 when the Parliament again voted on a critical perspective on Hong Kong.
According to comprehensive research by the Czech think-tank Sinopsis, the actions of the EU-China Friendship Group, such as trips to China, provided opportunities for the Chinese state media to document positive comments created by European politicians.
Researcher Jichang describes FTM: ‘The friendship group didn’t wield any significant influence as a “voting bloc.” Its weight is insignificant within the full parliament.’ In his analysis, Jichang further supposed that the insistence that the group has 46 or 48 members is most likely excessive. ‘I’m not aware of any evidence the group ever had more than a dozen active members,’ Jichang stated. Regarding the bigger picture, their numbers are marginal: the European Parliament has over 700 MEPs.
In recent years, the friendship group has prevented China from being increasingly condemned by the European Parliament. It benefited from the Chinese EU embassy in Brussels. If the friendship group desired to expand the number of China-friendly MEPs, that mission could be considered a significant win.