German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and the nation’s football federation (DFB) president Bernd Neuendorf left for Qatar on Monday, planning to discuss human rights issues less than three weeks before the World Cup kicks off there.
The delegation includes several members of the German parliament and comes only few days after Qatar sharply protested against statements from Faeser on rights issues.
The agenda of the two-day visit to Doha starts with a meeting on labour rights which will include with a member of the International Labour Organization present.
On Tuesday, the Germans are to meet with Qatar’s Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Thani, and Gianni Infantino, president of the world governing football body FIFA.
Qatar has been criticised over the treatment of migrant workers in the country, the criminalisation of homosexuality, and sustainability in the run-up to the November 20-December 18 World Cup.
Qatar has said it has carried out labour law reforms and that everyone is welcome to attend the tournament.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Than, hit out at the critics recently, speaking of an “unprecedented campaign” against a host nation, fabricated allegations and double standard.
Faeser told public broadcasters ARD last week that Qatar being elected World Cup hosts was “a totally difficult award” for the German government which believes that human rights and sustainability should be important awarding criteria.
Qatar said on Friday it was “disappointed” and “totally rejects” the minister’s remarks which were “against diplomatic norms and convention,” according to state news agency QNA, and it handed the German ambassador a note of protest.
Not part of the German delegation is its government human rights commissioner, Luise Amtsberg, who cancelled her participation over the latest developments but said she would visit at a later stage.
Former German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel meanwhile reiterated his weekend criticism on the German stance against Qatar which he considered arrogant.
Gabriel told Stern magazine that Germany had also needed decades to become a liberal country after the Nazi reign 1933-1945.
“Especially we Germans should know that reforms don’t come overnight but step by step,” he said.
He acknowledged that Qatar was still far away from “our standards” but “I also see what has become better there over the past years. And this is completely blocked out especially in Germany.”