Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Sunday that Qatar’s rights record is improving but did not commit to attending this year’s World Cup where his country will be one of the top contenders.
After talks with the emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, at the end of a two-day Gulf tour, Scholz said his government would send a representative for the World Cup but would only decide later who.
Scholz told reporters that Qatar has made “a lot of investment” in the 32-nation football gala that starts on November 20.
“We also note that progress has been made on questions that have long been debated, for example on the situation of workers, even if this is far from conforming to the ideas we have,” Scholz said, referring to the safety and wider employment conditions of labourers.
“The question of how we will be represented will naturally be decided at the right time,” he added, referring to Germany’s non-footballing representation. “But there will be someone.”
Qatar has faced widespread criticism over its record on labour rights at the huge infrastructure projects it has launched in the past decade, and also on LGBTQ rights.
But it says that much of the criticism is unfair and that major reforms have changed conditions for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers.
German players posed just ahead of their World Cup qualifier with Iceland in March last year in t-shirts each daubed with a single letter that together spelt the words “human rights”.
German supporters’ groups have also criticised Qatar but the national football federation has rejected calls to boycott the event, pointing to reforms carried out in the past few years.
Germany, which has won the World Cup four times, is pitted against Spain, Japan and Costa Rica in the group stage of the tournament.