BERLIN German opposition parties on Tuesday accused Angela Merkel of pandering to the car lobby, after her conservatives received major donations from the family that controls BMW, just as Berlin was lobbying against tougher EU caps on carbon emissions.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) said the three donations made on October 9 and totaling 690,000 euros "have no connection to any political decisions".
The funds came days before European Union environment ministers backed German demands to scrap a deal to cap EU car emissions that Berlin had argued would cost jobs and damage its premium auto makers.
The donations came from Johanna Quandt, the widow of industrialist Herbert Quandt who is credited with transforming BMW, and her children Stefan Quandt and Susanne Klatten. The family owns almost 47 percent of BMW.
Juergen Trittin, former co-leader of the Greens, wrote on Twitter that the family had "bought Merkel's climate policy on October 9 for 690,000 euros".
Social Democrat Joachim Poss wrote that the short period between the donation and Merkel's backing for the car industry were "grist to the mill for all those critical of party donations."
A spokesman for the Quandts said they had decided in January to donate to the CDU but waited until October to transfer the money because they did not want to get involved in campaigning for Germany's September 22 election.
The payments were registered with parliament, as required for all personal donations to parties of more than 50,000 euros.
Carmakers Daimler and BMW produce heavier and relatively less fuel-efficient vehicles, meaning they would find it challenging to meet the proposed cap on carbon emissions of 95 grams per kilometer for all new cars from 2020, analysts say.
The CDU said the Quandt family had supported it with donations for years, regardless of whether they were in government. The three family members had also each given the party 150,000 euros after the 2009 election, which saw Merkel enter a coalition with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD).
Merkel's conservatives emerged as the dominant force in last month's election but need a partner. They are talking to both the SPD and the Greens, with the former seen as the most likely partner. The Greens are strongly in favor of limiting CO2 emissions to 95 grams per kilometer.
(Writing by Alexandra Hudson in Berlin; editing by Andrew Roche)