ATHENS, April 16 (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Reuters he was “firmly optimistic” his government would reach an agreement with foreign creditors by the end of April despite disagreements on issues such as pension and labour reform.
Following is the full text of his statement, translated by Reuters:
“The Greek government is working hard on every individual aspect of the negotiations, in Brussels just as much as in Athens, in order to reach a mutually beneficial solution, an honourable compromise with our partners - a compromise which will respect the recent popular mandate as well as the euro zone’s operational framework.
There already are many points of convergence between the two sides and they compose the framework around which our agreement will be formed. There has been remarkable progress compared to the starting point on a series of issues regarding the improvement of the tax collection system and the reinforcement of its autonomy, the fight against corruption, the effectiveness of the administration, as well as tax initiatives which will guarantee the appropriate primary surplus for the current year without burdening the majority of society but by distributing the burden on those who have a strong ability to pay taxes.
There remain, of course, four points of disagreement in the fields of labour relations, the social security system, the VAT increase and the rationale regarding the development of state property.
Let me be clear - this does not have to do with a technical weakness but a political disagreement, which everyone was aware of in advance, to the extent that they recognised and continue to recognise that the compromise we seek will respect the clear mandate of the Greek people as expressed in the January elections.
Despite the cacophony and erratic leaks and statements in recent days from the other side, I remain firmly optimistic that there will be an agreement by the end of the month. Because I know that Europe has learned to live through its disagreements, to combine its parts and move forward.
I am convinced that the Europe of democratic traditions and the Enlightenment will not give in to the extreme voices of some, will not choose the path of an unethical and brutal financial blackmail, but the path of bridging differences, the path of stability and mutual respect, and above all the path to democracy, for the benefit of our common European future.” (Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Louise Ireland)