Belgium’s Deputy PM quits as husband suffers aggressive brain cancer

Belgium’s Deputy PM quits as husband suffers aggressive brain cancer
Sophie Wilmes was the Prime Minister of Belgium in 2019 and 2020. Credit: Belga

Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès is taking a leave of absence to be with her family, as her husband has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

She took to social media and shared an emotional press release, detailing the circumstances that have forced her to stop working.

“Life takes painful turns sometimes, unfortunately,” Wilmès writes. “Today, illness has suddenly entered our lives – specifically that of my husband, Christopher. He, like far too many men, women and even children, must battle aggressive brain cancer.”

Wilmès, a member of the Reformist Movement, was the Prime Minister of Belgium from 2019 to 2020, the first woman to hold the position.

In March 2020, she formed an executive government to navigate the country through the Covid-19 pandemic. That same year, she joined current Prime Minister Alexander De Croo's government as a Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

The difficult ordeal will not be without consequences for Wilmès’ family, and therefore her role in the Belgian Government.

The Prime Minister will propose a provisional reorganisation of her powers within the executive to the King, while Ministers David Clarinval and Mathieu Michel will take over Wilmès’ matters in her absence.

“Being a minister requires discipline, availability and total dedication, which would prevent me from providing the help and comfort that Christopher and our children need during this difficult time. I want to be there for him as he has always been there for us and fight this battle with him and our children.”

Therefore, she writes, she has decided to step down from her current ministerial duties immediately without pay, in full consultation with the Prime Minister and her party. “This will allow us to have an overview of our situation by the summer.”

“Take care of yourself,” Wilmès concludes.

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