Saccomanni says EU worried by amendments to Italian budget

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission is worried about the vast number of changes being proposed to Italy's 2014 budget during its passage through parliament, Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni said on Wednesday.

Parties inside and outside Enrico Letta's ruling coalition criticized the budget when it was presented in September and have tabled more than 3,000 amendments to the bill which must be approved by parliament by the end of the year.

"They (the Commission) are concerned about the high number of amendments," Saccomanni told reporters in Brussels after meeting European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn.

Saccomanni said he had told Rehn the amendments were "quite a normal part" of Italy's budget process and assured him that the goal of lowering Italy's fiscal deficit to 2.5 percent of output in 2014 from 3 percent this year would remain intact.

The Commission will issue its opinion of the budget plan, which covers the 2014-2016 period, on Friday. It is not expected to raise major objections.

The budget has been attacked by Italy's parties, employers and trade unions for doing too little to reduce public spending or cut taxes. The unions have launched a raft of strikes to try to pressure the government or parliament to make changes.

Saccomanni said the Commission's assessment would take account not only of the budget itself, but also of other measures the government has promised and which he said were "in the pipeline."

These include privatizations, further cuts to public spending and a plan to uncover undeclared funds held by Italians in Switzerland, he said.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Writing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)