Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said the end of the economic crisis in his country was in sight and that the euro zone must not let the single currency become a source of friction between the north and south in the bloc.
Speaking at a conference in Rimini, he said the euro zone's third largest economy was in better shape than it was a year ago while people were more aware of its difficulties.
"A year ago we thought less than we do today that we were in a crisis but I believe we were in it more," Monti said. He said that he saw the end of the crisis "getting closer in some ways".
Since taking over from Silvio Berlusconi, who stepped down in November to avert a Greek-style debt crisis, Monti has embarked on a reform programme including labour market and pension overhauls, spending cuts and deregulation.
Monti said his government had not expected its reforms to have immediate growth-stimulating effects on the recession-hit economy. But he said he had hoped they would have led to Italy's borrowing costs falling faster than they have done, which would have made it easier for the recovery to begin.