Didier Reynders concludes agreement with Qatar

date: 31 March 2014

On 31 March, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders exchanged the instruments of ratification with the Assistant Foreign Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi, and the representative of Luxembourg relating to the bilateral agreement on the protection and promotion of investments between the Belgo-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLUE) and Qatar.

The agreement includes an extensive social clause that enables bilateral consultation concerning the respect for social and environmental standards. In this spirit, Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders expressed his concern and that of the Belgian Parliament, union and association representatives to Minister Al Rumaihi concerning the conditions for migrant workers on construction sites in Qatar, particularly on sites for the FIFA World Cup 2022. Minister Reynders informed the Assistant Minister that, at the request of Belgium, he would like to open a dialogue about the way in which work on the sites is organized. He also emphasized that Belgium considers this very important. Many Belgian companies are interested in conducting work in the context of the World Cup, but they do not wish to be associated with subcontractors that do not comply with rules and standards.

Minister Al Rumaihi said that several laws and rules have been adopted in order to put an end to any abuses and to improve sanitary standards (living space and opening polyclinics) and safety conditions for the construction workers. The number of labour inspectors has also been increased from 120 to 250. Qatar has set up special courts and has requested the services of two international consultancies.

According to Didier Reynders, it will be important to determine how this is put into practice and to be able to confirm progress during visits. He also emphasized that the International Labour Organization (ILO) should be involved in supervising these initiatives. Minister Al Rumaihi received the proposal to welcome visits positively, particularly with regard to studying the functioning of the newly created courts.