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POLITICS

Salvini wants Italy’s ‘little ethnic shops’ to close at 9pm

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has proposed a mandatory 9pm closing time for what he called "little ethnic shops", which he claimed were a haven for drug dealers.

Salvini wants Italy's 'little ethnic shops' to close at 9pm
Matteo Salvini claimed his proposal wasn't meant to target foreign business owners. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy's late-night corner shops, many of which are run by Bangladeshi, Indian or other immigrants, have become “a meeting place for drug dealers and people who cause trouble”, the interior minister claimed.

His new law and order decree, most of which is aimed at making it easier to deport foreigners who commit crimes or don't have permission to stay, will include a measure that obliges “little ethnic shops” to shut their doors at 9pm, he announced via his Facebook page.

“It's not a move against foreign shops, just to limit abuses,” said Salvini, who is also Italy's deputy prime minister and head of the League party.

Retail association Confesercenti warned that it would be discriminatory to single out certain business owners and not others. 

“Whoever has a commercial activity has rights and responsibilities: the responsibility to respect the rules and the right to remain open, whether your business is run by foreigners or by Italians,” said the association's secretary general, Mauro Bussoni.

READ ALSO: Tuscan city bans fast food, sex shops, and non-Italian shop signs

Meanwhile consumer association Codacons pointed out the value of late-night stores to shoppers, who have the chance to pick up anything from snacks to laundry detergent into the small hours.

However, Codacons president Carlo Rienzi said he was in favour of closing corner shops in cases when they cause disorder, and categorically in the historic centre of cities, “because their presence contributes to urban decay and mars the artistic beauty”. 

Such decisions are usually left to local councils, some of which have taken measures to prevent certain businesses from operating in protected zones. Earlier this year the council of Pistoia in Tuscany ruled that shops in the city centre must write their signs in the Roman alphabet as part of measures to protect the medieval town's “authenticity”. 

“Tourists who come to Pistoia don't come to have lunch in a kebab shop, to see a money transfer shop, nor to buy a canned drink from a 24/7 vending machine,” Mayor Alessandro Tomasi was quoted as saying at the time, adding: “We don't want foreign shops, we don't want mini-markets, we don't want money transfer services.”

More recently Italy's other deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio of the Five Star Movement, proposed to return to the days when shops weren't allowed to open on Sundays, saying that seven-day-a-week trading was “destroying Italian families”.

READ ALSO: Italian government seeks to keep shops closed on Sundays


Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
 

ITALIAN POLITICS

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Italy’s government was plunged into turmoil on Tuesday as foreign minister Luigi Di Maio announced he was leaving his party to start a breakaway group.

Italian government rocked by Five Star party split

Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

He accused the party’s current leader, former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, of undermining the coalition government’s efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Italy’s position within the EU.

“Today’s is a difficult decision I never imagined I would have to take … but today I and lots of other colleagues and friends are leaving the Five Star Movement,” Di Maio told a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are leaving what tomorrow will no longer be the first political force in parliament.”

His announcement came after months of tensions within the party, which has lost most of the popular support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being wiped out in national elections due next year.

The split threatens to bring instability to Draghi’s multi-party government, formed in February 2021 after a political crisis toppled the previous coalition.

As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.

Di Maio played a key role in the rise of the once anti-establishment M5S, but as Italy’s chief diplomat he has embraced Draghi’s more pro-European views.

READ ALSO: How the rebel Five Star Movement joined Italy’s establishment

Despite Italy’s long-standing political and economic ties with Russia, Draghi’s government has taken a strongly pro-NATO stance, sending weapons and cash to help Ukraine while supporting EU sanctions against Russia.

Di Maio backed the premier’s strong support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion, including sending weapons for Kyiv to defend itself.

In this he has clashed with the head of Five Star, former premier Giuseppe Conte, who argues that Italy should focus on a diplomatic solution.

Di Maio attacked his former party without naming Conte, saying: “In these months, the main political force in parliament had the duty to support the diplomacy of the government and avoid ambiguity. But this was not the case,” he said.

Luigi Di Maio (R) applauds after Prime Minister Mario Draghi (L) addresses the Italian Senate on June 21st, 2022. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

“In this historic moment, support of European and Atlanticist values cannot be a mistake,” he added.

The Five Star Movement, he said, had risked the stability of the government “just to try to regain a few percentage points, without even succeeding”.

But a majority of lawmakers – including from the Five Star Movement – backed Draghi’s approach in March and again in a Senate vote on Tuesday.

Draghi earlier on Tuesday made clear his course was set.

“Italy will continue to work with the European Union and with our G7 partners to support Ukraine, to seek peace, to overcome this crisis,” he told the Senate, with Di Maio at his side.

“This is the mandate the government has received from parliament, from you. This is the guide for our action.”

The Five Star Movement stormed to power in 2018 general elections after winning a third of the vote on an anti-establishment ticket, and stayed in office even after Draghi was parachuted in to lead Italy in February 2021.

But while it once threatened to upend the political order in Italy, defections, policy U-turns and dismal polling have left it struggling for relevance.

“Today ends the story of the Five Star Movement,” tweeted former premier Matteo Renzi, who brought down the last Conte government by withdrawing his support.

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