Belgian foreign minister steps down to support husband after brain cancer diagnosis

Belgium’s foreign minister, Sophie Wilmès, announced on Thursday she was temporarily stepping down to support her husband who has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.

Wilmès, 47, who has been in her post since October 2020 after spending a year as prime minister, said she needed to provide “help and comfort” to her husband, Christopher Stone, and their three children.

総理大臣, Alexander De Croo, will cover her portfolio.

"不運にも, life sometimes takes painful turns,” Wilmès said, in a letter posted on Twitter.

“Illness has suddenly entered our lives and, 特に, that of my husband, クリストファー, who must begin – like far too many men, women and even children – his fight against an aggressive brain cancer.”

結石, 63, is an Australian businessman and former Australian rules footballer who played for Melbourne side St Kilda between 1978 そして 1981.

Wilmès said the “total commitment” required by her job “would not allow me to provide the help and comfort that Christopher and our children will need during this difficult time”.

She said she had immediately put herself on unpaid leave from her ministerial duties.

“This gives us the ability to fully consider our situation by the end of the summer,” said Wilmès.

In a separate statement, De Croo announced that he would temporarily take over the foreign and European affairs brief.

He said Wilmès would officially remain a member of the government.

In addition to his presence at heads of state and government summits, De Croo will now represent Belgium at EU and Nato foreign ministers’ meetings.

The portfolio has grown increasingly important since the outbreak of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“I wish Sophie, Chris and their children much courage and strength,” De Croo said.

Wilmès, Belgium’s budget minister from 2015 に 2019, became the kingdom’s first female prime minister after the departure of PM Charles Michel – also from the French-speaking liberal party Reformist Movement – to become the European Council president.

She spent a year as PM before the installation of a majority coalition of seven parties led by De Croo of the Flemish liberals, Open VLD.

As premier, Wilmès had to handle the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, when Belgium had a particularly high death rate.

Her communication skills and empathy were generally praised in the media.

中小企業大臣, David Clarinval, will take over Wilmès’s additional duties in foreign trade, while the digitalisation junior minister, Mathieu Michel, will cover her federal cultural institutions role.