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The Brief from Brussels: Socialists top Wallonia, Adidas loses its stripes

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Charleroi, Belgium June 2019
Charleroi, Belgium June 2019
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Socialists top Wallonia region

The last coal mine in the southern Wallonia region was closed 30 years ago — and since then many industries have left the region.

Wallonia is economically weaker than the Flemish North and has seen the left-wing policies of councillors like Gaeten Bangisa driving votes.

"At the social level what happens is that we have a city with a lot of poverty, many people have difficulties, and so our main concern is to find funds to redevelop this city," said Bangisa, a councillor of Charleroi.

In the May elections, the far-left Parti du Travail made an impressive breakthrough, getting over 13% of votes, up 8 points from the previous election.

From Wallonia, the PTB has sent seven deputies to the federal parliament:

"We want to cut the salary of ministers and deputies in half so that we can really compare their standard of living with the standard of living of the average citizen," said Germain Mugemangango, a PTB councillor of Charleroi.

The party says it will fight the political establishment and defend the rights of workers.

"The question is whether all that is produced as wealth will serve the wellbeing of the vast majority of people, the 90%, or will it serve to enrich just a few," said Mugemangango.

Belgium's fracture between the North and the South goes beyond the economy. There's also the prominent issue of identity.

"In Flanders, from an early age, the Flemish are educated to be Flemish first and foremost, whereas here in Wallonia we are rather linked to our city. We are from Charleroi, Liege, Namur," said Gaetan Banigsa, a councillor of Charleroi.

"But above all we are Belgian."

In Wallonia, it is the economic concerns of voters that helped the left succeed in May's elections.

Tough negotiations for the formation of a national government are only beginning — and Belgians may need to strap themselves in for a long wait.

In 2010, it took 541 days of negotiations until an agreement was made.

Renew Europe announces leader

The new liberal alliance, Renew Europe, elected Romania's former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos to lead the group in the European Parliament.

He received 65 votes from MEPs in what was previously the ALDE group. The candidate behind him took 41 votes.

Ciolos's candidacy took off after he received the backing of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Adidas loses its stripes

Judges at the EU General Court ruled on Wednesday that the famous three stripes of the German sports brand Adidas are devoid of any "distinctive character."

The EU Intellectual Property Office reversed the brand's 2014 trademark for “three parallel equidistant stripes of identical width, applied on the product in any direction." This came after a Belgian shoe company filed a motion against the Adidas trademark.

ECR keeps Flemish nationalists

The right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament will retain the three MEPs elected from the Flemish nationalist party N-VA.

After the recent European elections, the ECR group went from 74 to 63 members, which mean they dropped from the third-largest group to the sixth-largest group in the European Parliament.