WORLD: Mr. Krämer, you were in Doha with the Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) and Bernd Neuendorf, President of the German Football Association (DFB), among others. What impressions did you come back with?
Kramer: It's a difficult situation. I have to say: I was impressed by the way occupational safety and labor law was dealt with on the World Cup construction sites. The concepts of the Qataris have led to improvements. For example, there is air-conditioned clothing that reduces body temperature in the hotter months. A minimum wage and health checks were introduced. But that's actually the only good thing.
WORLD: Numbers of dead workers at the World Cup vary, their situation was described as catastrophic.
Krämer: The reforms started far too late. Even when the World Cup was awarded, the protection of workers was not made a requirement. But if you had started in 2010, the situation there might be better everywhere today. The situation of workers outside the stadium construction sites, for example, must continue to cause us great concern. It is completely unclear which standards apply here.
WORLD: Are these changes quickly forgotten after the World Cup when the public is gone?
Kramer: That's the fear. We must insist on continuing to improve, unlike in Russia or China. In Qatar, for example, we met the workers' welfare center, which is responsible for monitoring construction sites. And their managing director does not know whether his job will continue after the World Cup.
Overall, the human rights situation remains a disaster. Reporting is also only possible in certain zones, and freedom of the press is restricted. A visit to Qatar cannot erase all these problems.
WORLD: There have recently been restrictions on press freedom at other major sporting events. How long should this be accepted?
Krämer: You really shouldn't put up with that. There was also a meeting with Fifa President Gianni Infantino in Qatar – and he subsequently refused to make a press statement. Fifa ignores the fact that there can be broad reporting. This is very worrying.
WORLD: Interior Minister Faeser wanted to name the problems on her trip. Did she succeed?
Krämer: Yes, she made her criticism of the conditions of the tournament clear. However, the reaction of the Qatari government in advance has shown that it is very difficult to voice any criticism at all. This is immediately understood and dismissed as a personal insult or Western arrogance.
WORLD: The Shura Council, which you also met, referred to social values in Qatar that have to be taken into account.
Krämer: That shows the ideology of the country and is the classic argument of the Muslim Brotherhood: cultures are allowed to do what they want. This does not mean freedom for the people who live under most Arab regimes.
Former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel criticizes the handling of World Cup hosts Qatar. A lot has changed for the better there in recent years. "Most of the reforms in Qatar are on paper but are not implemented," criticizes Wenzel Michalski of Human Rights Watch.
WORLD: Despite concerns, the Interior Minister will attend the opening game of the German team. Do you think that's correct?
Krämer: As sports minister, it is her right, after all, the DFB is the largest sports association in Germany. There is also the opportunity to address important points of criticism. I personally will not go to Qatar.
The sporting competition will be in the background, which is why as a football fan I can't recommend going there: This tournament is used by Fifa to make money. And Qatar is using the World Cup to improve its image in the world despite human rights violations.
WORLD: In response to the considerations in Germany to cap the gas price, Qatar threatened to stop deliveries. Are critical comments threatening to fizzle out?
Kramer: We don't have any leverage against Qatar. Unfortunately, the Qataris have the upper hand with liquid gas. Fifa, on the other hand, has leverage that it must also use to bring about lasting change.
A sad realization is that the West has lost its sovereignty over the interpretation of values and norms. It is our most important task to end dependency on authoritarian regimes.
WORLD: Homosexuality is a criminal offense in Qatar. At Faeser's urging, Qatar issued a safety guarantee for gay fans. A success?
Krämer: The fact that homosexual fans can drive to the games is definitely a success. However, it is absurd that this guarantee only comes 17 days before the World Cup, when in fact it was a condition of the tournament being awarded to Qatar. This needs to be better controlled in the future.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser traveled to Qatar in the run-up to the World Cup. Your criticism of the award caused upsets with Doha. Despite ongoing discussions about human rights, "we should now go through with the World Cup," says ex-national player Jimmy Hartwig. "This is about a lot of money."
WORLD: Now this guarantee only applies to foreign fans – Qatari LGBTQ people continue to be persecuted and harassed.
Krämer: With a view to the validity of universal human rights, of course that cannot be enough for us and has to be criticized again and again. The tournament is now taking place there. This security guarantee is the absolute minimum that the Minister of the Interior had to achieve.
Human rights must also apply to the Qataris and the guest workers. This must not be forgotten, even in times of energy dependency.
WORLD: How could the World Cup be used for this?
Krämer: The attention is on Qatar, that's an advantage. Just because you don't have leverage doesn't mean you should keep quiet. The situation of Iranian fans will accompany us, for example: will Iranians be able to demonstrate in Qatar and point out the massive problems in their country?
The World Cup can be an opportunity to point out grievances in the world. We already had this debate with the rainbow flag.
WORLD: Captains of several national teams, including the German one, have agreed on an armband. It is colorful, but not a rainbow flag, as captains have done a few times in the recent past. Isn't that very careful?
Krämer: It's important that you do something at all. This gives the press, for example, the opportunity to regularly point out the local political situation during match broadcasts. But we must not forget that Uefa banned the stadium from being illuminated in the rainbow flag at the 2021 European Championships in Munich. The DFB is becoming increasingly aware of its role, that's progress. Overall, however, the DFB is not the most progressive association, a few years ago that would have been unthinkable.
WORLD: You think the award to Qatar was a mistake. How can this be avoided in the future?
Krämer: Democracy, human rights and freedom must play a greater role within the large associations. If tournaments are awarded to states that do not meet Western standards, clear conditions must apply in terms of employee protection, human rights and environmental protection. And if they are not complied with, there must be consequences.
Even Gianni Infantino now speaks of problems with corruption in the award to Qatar. The processing has only just begun.
"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, among others, or directly via RSS feed.