Qatar World Cup: Belgian Foreign minister wants to take part in; Greens wait strong signal

The Football World Cup is about to start on November 20, but the main Belgian political stakeholders have not agreed yet on which message Belgium should send to the world. The green party Ecolo wants a “strong signal” in Doha, while the Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib is against a Belgian boycott.

Qatar is accused of human rights violations during the construction of stadiums, hotels and other infrastructures. Amnesty International estimates several thousand migrant workers have lost their lives building these sites. 

According to the newspaper L'Echo, these subjects have landed more than once on the table of the senior ministers, without the parties agreeing on the advisability and the form of a possible official representation of Belgium at the World Cup.

On the table

Lahbib proposed that if the Belgian national team reaches the semi-finals stage, the Belgian King Philippe or Prime Minister Alexander De Croo should join the official stands of the competition. This idea has been outright rejected by the environmentalists, since for them there is no question of "linking the government's position to the sports results of the Red Devils", details l'Echo.

"We are waiting for a new proposal from the minister which better integrates respect for human and worker rights", confirms Georges Gilkinet, Deputy Prime Minister Ecolo. The Greens want Belgium to send “a strong signal” on these subjects. 

Gilkinet defends that the issue of workers' compensation, claimed by NGOs and rejected by Qatar, must integrate the Belgian position. “The boycott is a means, I am not obsessed with the means, it is the result that counts”, says Georges Gilkinet today.

Asked by L'Echo, Lahbib said she was "in favour of a nuanced approach in this case" and opposed any diplomatic boycott. "We remain firm on respect for human rights and working conditions, but we must also support Qatar's efforts to improve these working conditions," she added. 

Lahbib also stated, "most European countries have already indicated that they will send a ministerial delegation to Doha”. On the other hand, Germany will send its minister of the Interior and had already openly deplored the choice of Qatar for the organisation of the World Cup.

The Belgian Foreign minister prefers to focus on the strategic partnership between Belgium and Qatar. While the latter supplies only a few per cent of gas imports into Belgium, Qatar Petroleum is under contract with Fluxys to operate the Zeebrugge gas terminal, the gateway to the European market.



#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO Gabriel Bouys / AFP ​

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