The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) has entrusted Qatar with organising the 2022 football world cup.
The working conditions of immigrant workers in Qatar are the subject of controversy, despite a number of reforms, such as the abolition of the exit permit announced on 16 January 2020, but Human Rights Watch considers that they do not go far enough. The International Observatory of Human Rights has estimated that the death toll could rise to 4 000 by 2022.
The Council of Europe signed a cooperation agreement with Qatar on 26 March 2018 and sent a delegation to the country between 16 and 20 December 2019.
On 17 February 2020, French Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Dominique Bilde of the Identity and Democracy Group posed a parliamentary question to the European Commission.
MEP Bilde wrote “on 21 February 2018, the Commission and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) signed a cooperation agreement” and enquired “how does the Commission intend to ensure, in particular in collaboration with UEFA and the Council of Europe, that preparations for and the organisation of the World Cup in Qatar respect European standards in terms of fundamental rights and labour law?”
On 15 May, Commissioner Mariya Gabriel responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, responded on behalf of the European Commission. She stated that “the EU believes that human rights and labour standards must be respected at all times, including by organisers of sports events” and that “FIFA has explicitly stated that it will uphold human rights and labour standards in accordance with the United Nations’ Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.
She also declared that “the Commission expects these to be upheld and fully implemented” and that “FIFA should therefore do everything it can to avoid human rights violations and abuses linked to the organisation of FIFA World Cups”.
Commissioner Gabriel further underlined that “the arrangement for cooperation between the Commission and UEFA includes joint efforts to promote physical activity and women participation in sport, protect minors, combat violence and racial discrimination as well as address the legacy and sustainability of major sports events” and “the Commission’s cooperation with UEFA does not cover actions or events organised by FIFA”.
Commissioner Gabriel reassured MEP Bilde that “human rights, including labour rights, are at the core of EU-Qatar relations and have been addressed thoroughly at the two EU‐Qatar Human Rights Dialogue meetings held so far, on 13 December 2018 in Doha and 19 December 2019 in Brussels, respectively”.
The Commissioner highlighted that “the working and living conditions for migrant workers in Qatar as well as their human rights featured prominently during the visit of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Mr Eamon Gilmore, to Doha on 16-17 February 2020” and “he met the Qatari authorities in charge of the preparation of the FIFA World Cup 2022 and the Head of the International Labour Organisation Office in Qatar” and that “he also visited one of the stadium construction sites and the workers’ compound”.
In closing, Commissioner Gabriel declared that “the EU welcomes the important labour reform efforts undertaken so far by Qatar and looks forward to the further improvements that are needed to ensure full respect of the human rights of migrant workers”.
Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_FIFA_World_Cup