In mid-May, Northern League (NL) politicians proposed new legislation that would require non-Italians to pass an Italian language test before opening a business. The centre-right party argued that the proposed measure would accelerate integration and ensure that business owners would have sufficient language skills to understand and abide by the rules and regulations of the Italy's business sector.
The majority of centre-left politicians voiced their concern over the proposal, as did Monsignor Giancarlo Perego, the director-general of Migrantes, a Catholic welfare group, who said the proposal ‘made no sense,' and was ‘destined to fail.'
Such a measure, however, is already in place in the Tuscan city of Prato. In early April, the city administration approved an ordinance requiring all foreign-born merchants to pass a language test before opening a shop, bar or restaurant. Prato has one of the largest Chinese communities in Europe, one-quarter of the city's population, and the local government decided that knowledge of the Italian language was necessary in order to operate businesses, follow rules for hygiene and sanitation, and handle emergencies, like calling an ambulance or the police.
The mayor of Prato, Roberto Cenni, says the local law shows that Prato is a ‘laboratory for integration.' Cenni told the press, ‘In a city in which the immigrant presence is four times higher than in the rest of Italy, it's no wonder that certain issues have come to light here before they have in other places.'