Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess has said that the company is reconsidering its decision to locate in Turkey “from a moral point of view,” adding that they can’t lay the foundation stone “next to a battlefield.”
“As long as people are being killed, we are not laying the foundation stone next to a battlefield,” Diess said in an article he penned on LinkedIn, referring to Turkey’s military incursion in northern Syria that was highly criticized Ankara’s Western allies.
Diess said that he has been receiving plenty of public appeals and personal letters concerning a possible new Volkswagen plant in Turkey.
“On the one hand, there is the demand that Volkswagen should behave in a politically neutral manner and make decisions on the basis of purely economic considerations,” he said.
“On the other hand, there is the expectation that Volkswagen reconsiders its decision to locate in Turkey from a moral point of view,” Diess added.
Saying that Volkswagen postponed its decision until the end of the year, the CEO cited “international law” and “human rights” as the basis of the company’s move.
“We did so despite the fact that a plant in Turkey is in our economic interest. With its large market and good industrial base, Turkey is a very suitable production location for us,” Diess said.
“However, we are convinced that if businesses think that international law and human rights are the sole responsibility of governments, the market economy loses its ethical foundation. Volkswagen shares the assessment of the German government and the European Union on the military conflict in northern Syria,” he also said.
In the article, Diess voiced his belief that international trade and close economic ties support peace, prosperity, and freedom, while adding that sanctions should not become protectionism.
It is also part of our corporate responsibility to take into account the impact of our decisions on the specific living conditions of a great number of people. The purpose of building an automobile plant is not to secure the existence of a government. But it secures the existence of thousands of people,” Diess said.
“A safe workplace under fair conditions. An income that enables your children to get a good education and to have a brighter future. These people rightly expect that their hopes will not become the plaything of political action,” he added.
Diess also said that the company’s decision on a new plant in Turkey is still open.