“We can be proud”, says Alexander De Croo

The message that Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib conveyed to Qatar during the Belgium-Canada match on Wednesday, as well as the talks she was able to hold with Qatari officials, justify her trip to this Middle Eastern country that hosts the Football World Cup, Prime Minister Alexander declared. De Croo to the Chamber on Thursday in response to Samuel Cogolati (Ecolo-Groen) and Goedele Liekens (Open Vld).

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During this match, the minister wore the “One Love” bracelet that symbolizes the fight against discrimination that FIFA has banned players from wearing.

“It is something we can be proud of,” said the head of government who criticized the statements of the president of the International Football Association about this bracelet. “It’s not about politicizing sport,” he added, recalling that the rights at stake are fundamental rights. “FIFA has not used the moment to show that football is a global sport and for everyone.”

During her two-day visit, the minister also conveyed Belgium’s message to her Qatari counterpart during a working lunch. She expressed her “concerns about the working conditions of immigrants in Qatar and about human rights, especially the rights of women and LGBTQIA+ people,” according to a State Department statement released Thursday.

“It was not an easy discussion, but it was necessary. And that proves that it was better to have a discussion than not to have one,” underlined Mr. De Croo.

Ecologists wanted Belgium to refrain from sending an official representative to this much-maligned event. “The bracelet sends a clear message: we do not play with human rights. But the bracelet will not compensate for the thousands of migrant workers injured and dead on the construction sites. We must demand a compensation fund from Qatar,” asked Samuel Cogolati.

Qatar spent 220 billion euros for this event, he noted. “If Qatar has that much money for the World Cup, it certainly has money to compensate the workers.”

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