Belgium’s FM Sophie Wilm temporarily steps down

Belgium’s FM Sophie Wilm temporarily steps down

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

Wilm s, 47, who has been in her position 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.

The prime minister, Alexander De Croo, will cover her portfolio.

Wilm s said in a letter posted on Twitter that life sometimes takes painful turns.

Illness has suddenly entered our lives, and that of my husband, Christopher, who has to begin his fight against an aggressive brain cancer, like far too many men, women and even children. Stone, 63, is an Australian businessman and former Australian rules footballer who played for Melbourne side St Kilda between 1978 and 1981.

Wilm s said the total commitment required by her job would not allow me to provide the help and comfort that Christopher and her children will need during this difficult time. She said she had immediately put herself on unpaid leave from her ministerial duties.

Wilm said that this gives us the ability to fully consider our situation by the end of the summer.

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

He said Wilm would be a member of the government.

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

The portfolio has grown more important since the outbreak of Russia's war in Ukraine.

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

Wilm s, Belgium's budget minister from 2015 to 2019 became the kingdom's first female prime minister after the departure of PM Charles Michel 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.

Wilm s had to deal with 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.

The small business minister, David Clarinval, will take over Wilm's additional duties in foreign trade, while the Digitalisation junior minister, Mathieu Michel, will cover her federal cultural institutions role.