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Blatter: Europe also to blame for World Cup worker welfare concerns

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has hit back at the European parliament over the welfare of migrant workers in 2022 World Cup host Qatar. Qatar is amending its labor laws in response to a damning report of their treatment.

The Amnesty International report condemned the standard of welfare for those employed in the construction of World Cup stadiums and infrastructure, labeling it “ruthless exploitation.” Amnesty raised grave concerns over living and working conditions, non-payment of wages and a high rate of on-site accidents.

The revelations have put pressure on both the 2022 World Cup Qatar organizing committee (Q22) and football's governing body FIFA to act. Q22 have committed to Amnesty to form a worker welfare committee, while it plans to set clear guidelines on conditions by the end of the year, with compliance a contractual obligation for companies working on World Cup projects.

The matter was also discussed by the European Parliament on Thursday, with lawmakers urging FIFA to send a strong message to Qatar: "FIFA must belatedly take concrete steps to ensure the preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar do not lead to further human rights violations," said Barbara Lochbihler, chairwoman of the European Parliament's committee on human rights.

Talking on Friday from Rome after an audience with Pope Francis, Blatter said “we deplore what happened there.” But he took umbrage to the contribution of the EU parliament, pointing out the presence of major European companies in Qatar. He also claimed France and Germany had lobbied hard for the Gulf nation to be awarded the tournament.

"The big companies working there are European companies, most of them. The constructor is responsible for the workers," Blatter told reporters.

"The Europeans are unhappy but it was pressure from European countries that brought this World Cup to Qatar because there were so many economic interests … Two of these countries that made pressure on the voting men in FIFA were France and Germany. This is established. This is not new information.

"It's easy to say all the responsibility lies on FIFA. No, we are part of this responsibility. We are now monitoring the situation and we will come back to it."

EU make their move

The EU parliament passed a resolution on Thursday for the speedy adoption of a draft law on domestic workers, with members noting at least 500,000 more migrant workers were expected in Qatar for works on World Cup infrastructure.

A spokesman for Qatar's foreign ministry said prior to the vote that the evaluations “exaggerate the allegations reported in press articles.” He did state, however, Qatar's government “seriously takes allegations on working conditions in construction sites.”

Blatter also addressed the scheduling of the 2022 World Cup, again showing his preference for moving the tournament to the end of the year. The move would alleviate concerns about the high temperatures in Qatar during June and July - the months the World Cup is traditionally held. But the shift in schedule also has its opponents due to the upheaval it would force on club competitions.

ph/msh (AP, AFP, dpa)