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Migration, elections, robot buses, doomed trade policies and a row over condoms

Head of Knights of Malta quits in condoms row

The head of the Knights of Malta – an ancient Catholic order – has resigned after a public row with Pope Francis over condoms.

The pair clashed after British Grand Master Matthew Festing refused to cooperate with a papal commission investigating his ousting of the grand chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager, over revelations the order's charity branch had been distributing condoms.

Festing met with the pope and offered his resignation.

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He had previously cited the Knights' status as a sovereign entity in refusing to cooperate.

But the Holy See – the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome – said in a sharply worded statement it planned to take action to resolve the dispute.

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The remarkable showdown is the latest example of Francis clashing with more conservative elements in the Catholic Church, especially those for who sexual ethics and doctrinal orthodoxy are paramount.

Before Festing quit the Vatican called the issue a 'crisis of the central direction' of the Knights of Malta.

Festing suspended Mr Boeselager in December over revelations the Knights' charity branch had distributed thousands of condoms to poor people in Burma. Boeselager claimed he had stopped the programmes.

The order's leadership called the revelations 'disgraceful'. Francis appointed a commission to investigate after Boeselager said he had been told by Festing the Holy See wanted him to quit over the scandal.

However, the Vatican said the Pope wanted the dispute to be resolved through dialogue but the order's leadership refused to cooperate.

In a letter written in Januray, Festing questioned the credibility of the Pope's commission, saying there were 'serious accusations of a conflict of interest' involving three of its five members.

The three, he wrote, were linked to a Geneva-based fund in which the Knights had a financial interest and therefore could not be trusted to address the row objectively.

The Vatican said it 'counts on the complete cooperation of all in this sensitive stage' – an apparent reference to the order's refusal to cooperate.

Robot buses in France

Robot buses have started linking two train stations in the French capital.Two electric-power EZ10 minibuses, which can carry up to six seated passengers, were put into service on Monday and will be tested until early April between the Lyon and Austerlitz stations in Paris.

The GPS-guided vehicle is free and will be running seven days a week.Jean-Louis Missika, a Paris deputy mayor in charge of innovation, said self-driving vehicles 'will change the urban landscape in a spectacular fashion' within the next 20 years.Conceived by the French company Easymile, the EZ10 has already been tested in several countries, including the United States. It will also be tested between two main green spaces in southern Paris.

Election in Germany

The German general election will be held on September 24.

President Joachim Gauck announced he had approved the Cabinet's proposed date, the last Sunday in September.

The vote is expected to see the nationalist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, enter the national parliament on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment. They are currently polling at about 12%.

Chancellor Angela Merkel will be running for a fourth term, although it is far from certain who would join her in a coalition government if AfD takes a significant share of votes away from other parties.

European Commission

The European trade commissioner has said US president Donald Trump's trade policies are 'doomed to fail' adding that the EU remains committed to open borders and economies.

Cecilia Malmstrom said most countries still share the same vision of open trade and investments.

She said that 'building a wall is not the answer', adding: 'The success of the EU relies on our open societies.'

Ms Malmstrom said: 'Those who in the 21st century think that we can become great again by rebuilding borders, re-imposing trade barriers, restricting people's freedom to move - they are doomed to fail.'

Mr Trump's decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Monday has been widely regarded as an indicator of a more enclosed US trade policy.

Greece/Italy migration

The EU's top migration official has urged member countries to agree on a way to fairly distribute the load of migrant arrivals. Migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said member states must finally define the notion of 'soli-darity', as greece and Italy struggle to deal with tens of thousands of mi-grants. He said: 'It's the moment for all of us to interpret this term in the same way. It's absolutely necessary.'

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