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Belgian deputy PM Sophie Wilmès takes leave of absence due to husband’s health
Belgium’s current deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Sophie Wilmès (MR) is taking a leave of absence due to the health of her husband, who's suffering from an aggressive brain cancer.
This is a leave of absence, not a resignation, reports RTBF, and the announcement was followed by a wave of support from other political actors who praised Wilmès as “an exceptional woman” showing “courage and respect”.
In a press release sent in the wake of Wilmès’ announcement, prime minister Alexander De Croo confirmed that she wished to “temporarily delegate her competences” but emphasised that “she will remain officially minister and deputy prime minister during this period”.
The absence will trigger a new distribution of ministerial competences within the federal government. De Croo is due to temporarily assume competences in the field of foreign affairs and European affairs.
David Clarinval (MR), minister for the self-employed, SMEs and agriculture, institutional reforms and democratic renewal, will temporarily take over responsibility for foreign trade. He will also replace Wilmès in the cabinet.
Mathieu Michel (MR), secretary of state for digitalisation, administrative simplification, protection of privacy and the buildings agency, will be responsible for federal cultural institutions.
“Minister Wilmès will officially remain a member of the federal government during this period,” De Croo said. “She has expressly stated her wish not to receive any remuneration during this short period. The temporary transfer of competences will be formalised in a royal decree.”
Messages of support
“My thoughts today are with Sophie, her husband Christopher and their children. It is to Sophie's credit that she has made the explicit choice to remain by her husband's side and to be present for her children. Her choice commands the greatest respect. In an ordeal like this, it is the spouse who comes first. I wish Sophie, Christopher and their children much courage and strength.”
Others have chimed in with declarations of support for the former prime minister, including MR president Georges-Louis Bouchez. “Sophie Wilmès is an exceptional woman for our country and for the MR,” he said on Twitter.
“She is also a wife and a mother who’s just as exceptional. This is undoubtedly a difficult time. Sophie and Christopher can count on the support of the entire Liberal family. Politics can be a rough world, but it is also made up of exceptional encounters. Sophie is one of them and my friendship and support for her are boundless. She is a fighter. Keep fighting!”
Photo: © Belga/Virginie Dufour