Thank you, Chairperson.
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Georgia align themselves with this statement.
The European Union and its Member States attach great importance to the promotion, respect and fulfilment of human rights, as safeguarded by the Fundamental ILO Conventions and other human rights instruments. The EU and its Member States are engaged in promoting their universal ratification and implementation, including the Forced Labour Convention. We believe that compliance with the ILO fundamental Conventions is essential for social and economic stability in any country.
We also promote safe and healthy workplaces worldwide and recognize the central role of the ILO in developing, promoting and supervising international labour standards. In addition, an environment that is conducive to dialogue and trust between employers, workers and governments contributes to creating a basis for solid and sustainable growth and inclusive societies.
We thank the Office for its report on the implementation of the technical cooperation programme in Qatar and for its work on the ground. We also commend the Government of Qatar for its active involvement in this programme.
We acknowledge the overall progress made and in particular regarding a certain number of important issues:
First of all, on exit visa, we welcome the planned adoption by the end of 2019 of the Ministerial Decision by the Qatari Minister of Interior extending the coverage of Law No. 13 of 2018, which removes exit permit requirements, to workers of ministries and other government entities, workers of public institutions, domestic workers, workers employed at sea, workers in agriculture and grazing, and workers employed in casual work. We expect that, upon complete entry into force of that decision, all concerned workers will be free to leave the country temporarily or permanently during their contract period. We understand that military personnel is not covered by this decision, and we note that there can be an exception depending on the nature of the work, which cannot exceed 5% of the workforce in a company, but that this is only a temporary provision. We also commend the unanimous endorsement by the Qatari Council of Ministers of a draft legislation allowing workers to change employers freely by suppressing the no-objection certificate requirement.
We believe these are fundamental steps towards the abolition of the kafala system. Taking into consideration the need for the consultation of the Shura Council and, subsequently, the approval of the Head of State, we welcome the decision of the State of Qatar to implement these measures by January 2020.
Secondly, recalling that setting up a non-discriminatory minimum wage was a cornerstone of the technical cooperation programme, we are pleased to hear that draft legislation on minimum wage was approved by the Council of Ministers and has been referred to the Qatari Advisory Council. We take note with great interest that this bill will apply to workers from all sectors without distinction of nationality and draw the attention to the fact that, once adopted, this law will be the first one introducing a national minimum wage in the Middle-East.
Regarding the improvement in the payment of wages, following the creation of workers' dispute settlement committees last year, we are pleased to hear that, in accordance with the agreed protocol, the ILO has continued to facilitate the submission of 20 more labour complaints and we call upon the swift handling of all complaints submitted. We also welcome the commissioning of a Workers' Support and Insurance Fund which should be fully operational by December 2019. Paying overdue wages in a timely manner is still one of the major obstacles faced by many workers. We encourage the State of Qatar to consider expanding the application of the fund beyond the event of insolvency in order ensure the continuation of wage payments in cases of accident or non-payment of wages on other grounds.
Thirdly, we welcome the focus made on labour inspection and occupational safety and health (OSH) systems by the State of Qatar through the adoption of a national labour inspection policy, as well as the adoption of an OSH policy which takes into account relevant ILO standards and instruments. This is even more important as the heat-stress risk faced by workers remains worrying and this issue should be adequately addressed by the government and enterprises.
Finally, on promoting workers' voice, we gladly welcome the adoption by the Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs (MADLSA) of Decision No. 21 of 2019 regulating the conditions and procedures for the election of workers' representatives, and especially the absence of loss of pay or other benefits, as well as effective protection to workers’ representatives. Furthermore, we also welcome the will of the Qatar Foundation to make the establishment of joint committees a requirement for all its subcontractors. To this aim, we note the creation of six joint committees pilots for which more than 30 workers representing more than 3,000 employees have been elected. In this context, we encourage the government to take additional steps, and grant workers the right to strike and the right for freedom of association.
We consider these measures as being important milestones towards the implementation of a genuine labour reform in Qatar.
The foundations of this reform have been laid down, but further implementation and enforcement are required to achieve a real contractual system that offers fair and decent conditions to all workers, including migrant workers.
We encourage the government to take further measures to prevent recruitment agents and brokers from charging illegal commissions, with a view to granting workers the possibility to enter into contract without intermediaries. In this regard, we are looking to the government to swiftly implement the announced one-stop-shops.
Furthermore, all reforms should be extended and applied to domestic workers.
We encourage the government to further implement and enforce the measures taken and to continue working in close partnership with the ILO as well as with the representatives of employers and global unions and other partners to ensure that the goals of this cooperation programme are met. We stand ready to continue supporting the government of Qatar including through sharing of best practices and providing expertise as required.
We look forward to assessing the additional progress in one year.
Thank you, Chair.
 The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.