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Dutch to send delegation to Qatar despite MPs’ opposition

The Dutch government said Wednesday it will send a delegation to next month’s World Cup in Qatar and that King Willem-Alexander might go too, despite Dutch MPs asking it not to do so.

Parliament last year approved a motion requesting Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government not to send any of the country’s top leaders to the tournament, which kicks off on November 20, due to controversial labour conditions.

Qatar has long argued that attacks on its labour rights record are unjustified, instead highlighting reforms it has carried out over the past decade.

“The government shares the view that the human rights situation, and more particularly that of migrant workers in Qatar, should and must improve,” the cabinet said in a letter to parliament, submitted by Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra.

But it nevertheless “intends to send a government delegation, as per usual to major international sporting events, to support the Dutch national team,” the letter said.

It said Qatar has implemented many reforms to improve workers’ rights and that other countries in the European Union and elsewhere also intended to send delegations.

The Netherlands continued to talk to Qatar about improving human rights in the country, the letter added.

But “being unilaterally absent from the World Cup will send a message that our cooperation and dialogue with Qatar to bring change to workers’ situation there can no longer continue.”

The Dutch government “had a good relationship with Qatar” and since the motion was adopted “the war broke out in Ukraine”, it said.

“The Netherlands has broad interests in its relationship with Qatar, which also plays an important role in the Gulf region and beyond.”

Dutch MPs in February last year adopted the motion to ask top Dutch leaders not to attend the football extravaganza.

Gert-Jan Segers, leader of the Christian Union party, who supported the motion, told the NOS public broadcaster the decision was disappointing.

“Despite all the deaths and despite the disastrous situation for minorities in Qatar it seems the show must go on,” he said.

However, the Dutch government said “at a time when we are jointly seeking a response to the geopolitical situation, energy crisis and climate change, the Qatari contribution to a stable region and building partnerships is of great importance.”

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