Boycott World Cup or send delegation? Belgium seeks diplomatic compromise

As the official start of the World Cup approaches, several countries are examining whether and how they will officially attend the controversial event in Qatar. Belgium is considering a compromise by postponing an official delegation to the semi-finals, Prime Minister De Croo confirmed on Monday.

"The proposal now on the table is to travel with a representation of the royal family or the government from the semi-finals onwards," Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told radio channel La Première on Monday. The compromise proposal was launched by Belgian foreign affairs minister Hadja Lahbib (MR). In that scenario, Belgium would only officially attend the World Cup if its national team actually reaches those semi-finals.

The question of whether and when Belgium should be officially represented at the World Cup has been dividing the Belgian government, with green parties Groen and Ecolo calling for a strong stance on human rights violations during the construction of the event's infrastructure. The proposal by minister Lahbib seeks to strike a middle ground. "We should also support the efforts made by Qatar to improve working conditions," said Lahbib, who wants to avoid isolating Belgium if it were to go for a total diplomatic boycott of the World Cup.

Early elimination of the Red Devils could thus have the silver lining of allowing Belgium to bypass a sensitive diplomatic issue. Since the country's first World Cup participation in 1930, Belgium has only reached the semi-finals twice. On average, bookmakers estimate a 26.7% probability of Belgium reaching the World Cup semi-finals this year.



King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium celebrate victory at a 2014 FIFA World Cup game between Belgium and Russia in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil © BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

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