by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the release of his Annual Report 2019
And welcome to this virtual launch of the 2019 Annual Report.
Let me start by addressing the COVID-19.
This is a global pandemic which affects us all.
I express my condolences to those who have lost loved ones;
my solidarity with all those who suffer from the virus;
and my gratitude to the health workers and all those on the front line, who are fighting this crisis day and night,
often in very difficult conditions.
I also pay tribute to the military personnel in Allied countries, who are supporting efforts to combat the virus.
This is a trying time for all of us – as individuals, communities and nations.
A time when our resilience is tested to the limit.
And when many NATO Allies are having to take unprecedented decisions.
With tough social and economic consequences.
From the beginning, NATO has been implementing robust measures.
To limit the spread of the virus.
To reduce the risks to our soldiers and civilians,
and the communities they serve.
And to ensure that our essential work continues.
To maintain deterrence and defence for our nations.
The health and the safety of our personnel is paramount.
And it is vital to maintaining our readiness.
Just yesterday, we assessed the situation with our Supreme Commander, General Wolters.
As in the rest of the society, some of our people have been tested positive.
Some have been quarantined.
And some of our exercises have been modified or cancelled.
But NATO's ability to conduct operations has not been undermined.
Our forces remain ready.
And our work goes on.
Including in our multinational battlegroups in the east of our Alliance.
NATO Air Policing.
Our maritime deployments.
And our missions from Afghanistan to Kosovo.
Here at the NATO Headquarters, we have also taken preventative measures based on guidance from the World Health Organization.
And in close contact with the Belgian authorities.
These include limiting the number of staff and visitors coming into the building.
Increasing teleworking and health screening.
And ensuring social distancing.
This is also why I am holding this press conference virtually.
So we have prudent measures in place.
To ensure the safety of our staff.
And the continuity of our critical work.
NATO has also been working for many years to strengthen the resilience of our Allies.
And help them enhance preparedness across the whole of government, including in the health sector.
We will continue to consult, monitor the situation and take all necessary measures.
This is an unprecedented crisis.
But we have overcome crises before.
And together, we will overcome the coronavirus crisis.
As you can see from my Annual Report,
2019 was a year when we took big strides in further adapting NATO.
It was also the year when we marked our 70th anniversary.
Last year, we commissioned a survey, of almost 29,000 citizens across all 29 NATO Allies and North Macedonia.
The most comprehensive polling about NATO ever conducted.
The survey was conducted by Populus, an independent research and strategy consultancy.
And we are publishing the results for the first time in this Annual Report.
Let me set out the main results.
81% of the people across the Alliance believe that the collaboration between North America and Europe on safety and security is important.
Allied citizens strongly agree with the core principle of collective defence.
76% agree that other NATO Allies should defend them if attacked.
71% agree that their own country should act in defence of another Ally.
And 60% believe that their country's membership in NATO makes them less likely to be attacked.
If a vote was held, a clear majority – 64% - would vote to remain in NATO.
And only 9% would vote against.
So while results naturally vary across different countries, overall support for the NATO Alliance is strong.
This strong support for NATO shows that we are delivering.
In 2019, we further boosted our investment in defence.
Spending across the Alliance has increased in real terms by 4.6%.
We continued to strengthen our deterrence and defence.
Delivering on our Readiness Initiative.
And increasing our ability to move our forces across the Atlantic and in Europe.
We stood united faced with Russia's violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
We remained committed in the fight against terrorism, with our training missions in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
We enhanced our resilience by updating the baseline requirements for telecommunications infrastructure, including 5G.
And we declared space as our fifth operational domain.
Alongside land, air, sea and cyber.
At the meeting of NATO Leaders last December, we initiated a reflection process to further strengthen the political dimension of NATO.
And make a strong Alliance even stronger.
And we signed the accession protocol with North Macedonia.
Now that parliaments in all NATO countries have completed this ratification, we look forward to welcoming North Macedonia as NATO's thirtieth Ally very soon.
We live in an uncertain world.
The coronavirus outbreak has made clear that many of the challenges we face are too great for any one nation or organisation to face alone.
It is more important than ever that we stand together, work together, and support each other.
That is what NATO is all about.
The simple and powerful idea that we are stronger together than alone.
And NATO remains absolutely committed to its mission of providing peace and security for our nearly one billion citizens.
And with that, I'm ready to take your questions.
[Questions and anwers - transcript available soon]
Thank you so much. We come to the end of this press conference.
Thank you to everyone for adapting to this virtual format.
And please all continue to apply the necessary measures to stay safe and healthy.
Keep a social distance, wash your hands.
And all those of you who can, stay at home.
Small steps can make a major difference.