Belgium will only send a limited official delegation to the Qatar World Cup in protest against the Gulf peninsula's human rights abuses.
According to reports published in De Standaard, Belgium's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, will propose later this week that the country's official delegation should be limited to include only Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and King Philip — and that both should only attend if the country makes the tournament's semi-finals.
Typically, countries send a number of government and state officials as part of their official delegation, as well as former sporting legends, athletes and other celebrities.
An uneasy compromise
This is not the first time the Belgian government has made such a decision. During the last football World Cup in Russia in 2018, King Philip was accompanied by then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders, but then-Prime Minister Charles Michel refused to attend. Similarly, both the Belgian Government and the Royal Family officially boycotted the Winter Olympics held in China earlier this year.
Last year, the right-wing Flemish nationalist party N-VA submitted a proposal to the Federal Government calling on it to fully boycott this year's World Cup. After much discussion, the proposal was rejected in favour of a much weaker resolution, which merely called for 'pressure' to be put on countries hosting major sporting events not to violate human rights.
The Flemish and Walloon Regional Governments have already announced that they will be boycotting this year's tournament.
The only major Belgian politician who has so far openly announced that he is attending is the President of the French-speaking Reformist Movement Party Georges-Louis Bouchez. Bouchez called it 'hypocritical' to boycott the tournament when so many Western countries are becoming increasingly dependent upon Qatar's liquified natural gas exports.
- Brussels cafés and municipalities boycott broadcasting Qatar World Cup
- Flanders will boycott Winter Olympics in China and FIFA World Cup in Qatar
Qatar has faced sustained criticism from many European countries for its human rights abuses over the past several years, particularly over its treatment of migrant workers. Thousands of migrants have died during the construction of the country's sports stadiums and other tournament infrastructure.
Belgium's decision mirrors those taken in several other European capitals. The UK Labour Party is also boycotting the tournament, while the Dutch Parliament has urged its government not to attend — advice the Dutch Government is deciding to ignore.