Bärbel Höhn stopped believing in coincidence long ago. The Green party politician says she rubbed her eyes when she first read of the large donation made by major BMW shareholders to the Christian Democratic Union, the governing party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Less than three weeks after the general election, three members of the Quandt and Klatten families transferred some 690,000 euros ($930,000) to the CDU. As is legally required of any donation over 50,000 euros, the figure was published on the German parliament’s website. The transaction was completely legal, but Höhn is outraged nevertheless, because it came just as Merkel’s government was working to protect the interests of the German auto industry at the European Union. “It does have a bitter after-taste if a major donation of 690,000 euros comes from BMW at the same time as the chancellor is doing everything she can to block a really ambitious CO2 limit for cars,” she said.
German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier – also of the CDU – prevented an agreement being reached at a summit with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg on Monday (14.10.2013). Instead of the stricter emissions regulations from 2020 that the EU Commission called for, the German government demanded more generous transitional limits, which principally benefit the limousines built by German auto giants BMW, Daimler and Audi.
Höhn suspects that the government’s policy was bought – a charge the CDU denied in a written statement: “The donations were and are in no way connected to individual political decisions.”
That bold declaration isn’t enough for German anti-corruption organization Transparency International, whose chief Christian Humborg is calling for a sea-change in party donations law in Germany.