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Sophie Wilmès

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Sophie Wilmès
Wilmès in 2024
Prime Minister of Belgium
In office
27 October 2019 – 1 October 2020
DeputyKoen Geens
Alexander De Croo
Didier Reynders (2019)
David Clarinval
Preceded byCharles Michel
Succeeded byAlexander De Croo
Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
1 October 2020 – 14 July 2022
Prime MinisterAlexander De Croo
Preceded byPhilippe Goffin (Foreign)
David Clarinval (Deputy)
Succeeded byHadja Lahbib (Foreign)
David Clarinval (Deputy)
Minister of Budget
In office
22 September 2015 – 27 October 2019
Prime MinisterCharles Michel
Preceded byHervé Jamar
Succeeded byDavid Clarinval
Personal details
Born (1975-01-15) 15 January 1975 (age 49)
Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium
Political partyReformist Movement
(m. 2002; died 2023)
ParentPhilippe Wilmès (father)
EducationSaint-Louis University, Brussels

Sophie Wilmès (French pronunciation: [sɔfi wilmɛs]; born 15 January 1975) is a Belgian politician who served as the prime minister of Belgium from 2019 to 2020. She later served as minister of foreign affairs from 2020 to 2022. A member of the Reformist Movement, she is the first woman to hold either position.[1]

Wilmès was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 2014, and served as budget minister in the first and second governments of Charles Michel from 2015 to 2019.[2] In the aftermath of the 2019 Belgian federal election, Philippe of Belgium appointed Wilmès to lead a caretaker government (the Wilmès I Government) before she formed an executive government (the Wilmès II Government) in March 2020 to handle the COVID-19 pandemic.[3]

In October 2020, she joined the government of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo as foreign minister[1] and deputy prime minister.[4]

Early life[edit]

Wilmès was born in Ixelles, Brussels on 15 January 1975.[5] Her father, Philippe Wilmès, was a banker and economics professor at the Université catholique de Louvain who had been active in liberal politics and had served as chef de cabinet to Jean Gol of the Liberal Reformist Party (Parti Réformateur Libéral, PRL).[6] Her paternal grandparents were killed in the bombing of Limal during World War II.[7] Her mother is of Jewish descent and lost several relatives in the Holocaust[8] and had worked in the office of Mieke Offeciers between 1992 and 1993, during her term as Minister of Budget.[6] Wilmès grew up in the town of Grez-Doiceau, Walloon Brabant.[9]

Wilmès has a degree in applied communication from IHECS and a degree in financial management (Saint-Louis University, Brussels).[10]

For a time, Wilmès worked for the European Commission as a financial officer, and then as an economic and financial adviser in a law firm.[10]

Political career[edit]

In 2000, Wilmès became a councillor in Uccle.[11] From 2007 to 2014, Wilmès was First Alderman in charge of Finance, Budget, Francophone Education, Communication and Local Businesses for the town of Sint-Genesius-Rode. From 2014 to 2015, she was a provincial councillor for the province of Flemish Brabant.

In October 2014, she was elected to the Chamber of Representatives.[10]

In September 2015, minister of the budget Hervé Jamar announced that he would resign on 1 October 2015, because he was selected as the governor of the province of Liège. Wilmès was selected to succeed him in the Michel I Government.[12] In December 2018, she became Minister of Budget, Civil Service, National Lottery and Scientific Policy in the Michel II Government.[9]

On 27 October 2019, Wilmès became the first female Prime Minister of Belgium, succeeding Charles Michel. She led a caretaker government while negotiations proceeded to form a new coalition government.[12] On 16 March 2020, with negotiations still underway after 15 months, all major parties agreed to grant full legislative powers to the Wilmès government in order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the terms of the agreement, Wilmès was granted special powers to deal with the pandemic's economic and social impact. These powers were to last for three months, though they could be renewed once for an additional three months. Wilmès was officially nominated as prime minister by King Philippe later on 16 March,[13] and her reshuffled executive government was sworn in the day after.

Wilmès (right) with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in March 2021

On 1 October 2020, Wilmès was appointed deputy prime minister and foreign minister in the new government formed under Alexander De Croo, becoming the first female foreign minister in Belgian history.[1] For a time beginning on 22 October 2020, she managed the country's foreign relations from her intensive care hospital bed as she suffered from COVID-19.[14] It was noted by Deutsche Welle that "Wilmes tested positive for coronavirus" prior to 17 October "after attending an EU summit with her counterparts"[15] at the Europa building in Luxembourg on 12 October,[16] and 13 October.[17] Her Austrian counterpart, Alexander Schallenberg, also subsequently had a positive test.[15]

On 21 April 2022, Wilmès announced that she would temporarily take a leave of absence and hand over her government responsibilities to spend more time with her family as her husband had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour. Wilmès's responsibilities were shared out between the Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (foreign affairs), David Clarinval (foreign trade) and Mathieu Michel (federal cultural entities).[18] On 14 July 2022, Wilmès resigned definitively as a member of the De Croo government, but she remained a member of parliament.[19]

On 24 January 2024, she is appointed leading candidate for the MR in the European elections in place of Charles Michel, who had finally decided to withdraw his candidacy following a wave of criticism. [20] She received more than half a million preferential votes, breaking the record for preferential votes in French-speaking Belgium.[21] MR came out as the big winner in this election, well ahead of the PS, which had been given first place in the polls.[22]

In June 2024, Wilmès was considered for the presidency of Renew Europe but she finally did not submit her candidacy, leaving the job to Valérie Hayer.[23]

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

In 2002, Wilmès married Chris Stone, an Australian businessman and former footballer. They had three daughters: Victoria, Charlotte, and Elizabeth. Stone had a son, Jonathan, from a previous relationship.[25]

Shortly after the end of her term as prime minister, on 17 October 2020, she tweeted that she was COVID-19-positive.[26] On 22 October, she was admitted to intensive care in stable condition.[14] She was released from hospital on 30 October.[27]

In July 2022, Wilmès announced that she was stepping down from the government to care for her husband, who had been diagnosed with brain cancer.[28] Her husband died from his illness on 24 November 2023.[29]


  1. ^ a b c Marine Strauss (1 October 2020),Finally, a government after 652 days: New Belgian PM debuts at EU summit Reuters.
  2. ^ "Sophie Wilmès to replace Charles Michel as Belgian PM". POLITICO. 26 October 2019. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  3. ^ VRT NWS (16 March 2020). "Premier Sophie Wilmès (MR) vraagt morgen het vertrouwen in de Kamer". vrtnws.be (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Sophie Wilmès takes leave of absence as Belgian foreign minister". POLITICO. 21 April 2022. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  5. ^ Nizet, Pierre (28 October 2019). "Qui est vraiment Sophie Wilmès, notre nouvelle Première ministre" (in French). Sud-Info. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b Figaro, Madame (27 October 2019). "Sophie Wilmès : une ministre modèle devient la première femme à diriger la Belgique". Madame. Le Figaro. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  7. ^ "Décès de Philippe Wilmès". L'Echo (in French). 25 May 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  8. ^ "Belgium names first ever Jewish, female prime minister". Israel-Hayom. JNS. 31 October 2019. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  9. ^ a b admin (21 January 2022). "Sophie Wilmès Stone Former Prime Minister Belgium". Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  10. ^ a b c "Who Am I?". Sophie Wilmes. 13 November 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  11. ^ "UK immigration officials sent to Zeebrugge in crackdown against organised smuggling". The Brussels Times. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  12. ^ a b Rankin, Jennifer (28 October 2019). "Belgium gets first female PM as Sophie Wilmès takes office". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Belgium hands powers to caretaker PM to fight Covid-19 after 15-month stalemate". The Guardian. 16 March 2020. Retrieved 18 March 2020.
  14. ^ a b Boffey, Daniel (22 October 2020). "Belgium's deputy PM in intensive care with coronavirus". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes in intensive care with COVID-19". Deutsche Welle. 21 October 2020.
  16. ^ "FOREIGN AFFAIRS COUNCIL Luxembourg, 12 October 2020" (PDF). European Council. 12 October 2020.
  17. ^ "GENERAL AFFAIRS COUNCIL Luxembourg, 13 Octobre 2020" (PDF). European Council. 13 October 2020.
  18. ^ "Belgian foreign minister steps down". vrtnws.be. 21 April 2022. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  19. ^ NWS, VRT (14 July 2022). "Sophie Wilmès (MR) stopt definitief als buitenlandminister door ziekte echtgenoot, opvolger wellicht vandaag bekend". vrtnws.be. Retrieved 26 December 2022.
  20. ^ "EU's Michel pulls out of European Parliament elections race".
  21. ^ "Elections 2024 : avec 543.000 suffrages, Sophie Wilmès bat le record de voix francophones".
  22. ^ "Euronews Polls Center".
  23. ^ "Resurgent ALDE moves to retake Liberal lead from defeated French".
  24. ^ Members Council of Women World Leaders.
  25. ^ Nizet, Pierre (28 October 2019). "Qui est vraiment Sophie Wilmès, notre nouvelle Première ministre" (in French). Sud Info. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  26. ^ twitter.com
  27. ^ La Libre 30-10-20 à 12h19 "Sophie Wilmès est sortie de l'hôpital: elle poursuivra sa convalescence à son domicile"
  28. ^ "Belgian Vice-PM Wilmes resigns to take care of ill husband". Euronews. 15 July 2022. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
  29. ^ "Vale, Chris Stone". 27 November 2023.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of Budget
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Public Function
Preceded by Prime Minister of Belgium
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs
Succeeded by