Drakeford one of just four European leaders of nations represented at World Cup to to attend Qatar
Mark Drakeford was among a minority of leaders of European countries represented at the World Cup who chose to travel to Qatar, research by Nation.Cymru has found.
Wales was one of 13 European countries to qualify for the World Cup but the First Minister was one of just four heads of government of those countries to go to Qatar.
French President Emmanuel Macron, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa were the other leaders that travelled despite pressure to boycott the tournament over the host country’s human rights record.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban also attended the opening ceremony despite his country not having qualified.
All but one of the other nine qualifying countries sent delegations led by other government ministers.
England, Belgium and Serbia were all represented by their foreign ministers, while Spain, the Netherlands and Poland were represented by their sports ministers.
Germany sent its interior minister and Switzerland its finance minister.
Only the Danish government boycotted the tournament entirely, with neither ministers nor the country’s ambassador to Qatar attending the opening ceremony or the country’s matches.
In 2018, the UK and Icelandic governments were among those to boycott the World Cup in Russia in the wake of the poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
The First Minister visited Qatar for four days around Wales’s opening match against the USA, during which he met with the country’s deputy prime minister to discuss “mutual interest around sustainable development and our future generations”, according to a written statement.
It also says Drakeford held a “discussion on values” with Qatar’s ambassador to the UK and promoted “Wales and its values” at a UK Government reception for around 200 Qatari business leaders.
Speaking in the Senedd after returning from the trip, the First Minister said: “The Welsh Government’s presence at Qatar allowed us to amplify knowledge of Wales across the world and to speak up for the values that matter to us.
“Cultural and economic benefits will be among the products of that engagement.”
The Welsh Government didn’t want to comment further when contacted for a statement.
Economy minister Vaughan Gething also travelled to Qatar as part of the Welsh Government delegation that cost £13,000, according to a freedom of information request made by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds MS said our findings were further proof the First Minister was wrong to travel to Qatar.
“As myself and my party have stated multiple times it was completely inappropriate for Mark Drakeford to attend the World Cup in Qatar,” said Dodds. “The fact he was just one of four European leaders to do so only confirms this.
“Despite his argument for going, we saw minimal public contribution from him on the human rights debate.
“The Welsh Government should have followed the lead of Denmark and boycotted the event instead of prioritising tainted investment deals over human rights. This does not represent the progressive Wales I or the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to see on the world stage.
“I will continue to call on Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labour to donate (from their own Party funds) the equivalent of the £13,000 in taxpayers’ money they spent on the trip to human rights charities that deal with the issues of migrant slave labour, women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights.”
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