The Dutch government will send an official delegation to the World Cup in Qatar next month, despite the opposition of a majority of MPs, foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra told parliament on Wednesday.
‘The cabinet intends to send a government delegation, as is customary at comparable major sporting events, to cheer on the Dutch national team,’ Hoekstra said. ‘The cabinet is opting for cooperation with Qatar with a view to creating sustainable change.’
Last year, a majority of MPs, including those from ruling parties D66 and ChristenUnie, voted against sending the prime minister, ministers and the king.
Hoekstra told MPs in his briefing that the cabinet had decided to press forward with sending a delegation after talks with ‘countries, international partners and human rights organisations’. Officials have also had talks with Qatar about the human rights situation which has already improved in some areas, he said.
‘Staying away from the World Cup will limit the possibility of dialogue and cooperation and it will become then harder to pick this up again,’ Hoekstra said, adding that the government wants to maintain a good relationship with Qatar.
ChristenUnie leader Gert Jan Segers, who supported the anti-delegation motion, described the cabinet’s decision as incomprehensible.
‘Everything that is wrong with football comes together in this bribe-bought World Cup,’ he said. ‘Despite all the deaths and the terrible situation facing minorities in Qatar, it seems that the show must go on.’
An estimated 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka hired to build the stadiums have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago, the Guardian said, although the true death toll may be even higher.
Last week, Amsterdam’s local branch of D66 proposed that the city only give permission for public broadcasts of the games, if there are intermissions highlighting human rights abuses. GroenLinks has also made similar calls in Rotterdam.
In April, companies sponsoring the Dutch national football team said they will not accompany the squad, because of the human rights situation there. And in March, national coach Louis van Gaal described the decision to award the event to the Middle Eastern country as ‘ridiculous’ and driven purely by commercial motives.
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