Italy's Letta names austerity critic Fassina as junior minister

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta named a leading critic of Europe's austerity programs as deputy economy minister, directly below the orthodox former Bank of Italy official chosen to head the ministry.

The appointment of Stefano Fassina, who has called for Italy to re-negotiate budget targets agreed with the European Union, provides a figurehead for critics of fiscal rigor within government and parliament.

But as one of two deputy economy ministers, it is unclear how much policymaking weight he will carry.

He will serve under Fabrizio Saccomanni, the former director general of the Bank of Italy.

Saccomanni, an orthodox policymaker considered close to European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, ruled out trying to win extra leeway on the budget as recently as Thursday, saying it would endanger Italy's efforts to exit the EU's excessive deficit procedure.

Fassina, economic affairs spokesman of the center-left Democratic Party, was a persistent critic of the austerity policies of former Prime Minister Mario Monti.

He has repeatedly called for more European authorities to switch their focus from budget rigor to promoting growth.

Like many of his counterparts in Europe, Letta faces the challenge of meeting his country's fiscal commitments while trying to coax a sickly economy back to life. He has pledged to cut taxes but has not said how he will pay for it.

Fassina was one of a series of appointments announced late on Thursday that completed the line-up of Letta's new coalition government.

Luigi Casero, a lawmaker from Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party who served as economy undersecretary during Berlusconi's last government, becomes the other deputy economy minister.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by John Stonestreet)