The UK's body on strengthening devolution, the Smith Commission, concluded Nov. 27 that Scotland's parliament should have more independence in certain matters. The commission, set up by Prime Minister David Cameron, recommended that Scotland's parliament have the power to set income tax rates, voting age, welfare payments; and a consultative role in reviewing the BBC Charter. The announcement follows Scotland's vote against independence in September. While Scotland's government welcomed the announcement, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon found the commission's decision disappointing as the Scottish parliament would still be responsible for less than half of the money the country will spend.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May on Nov. 24 outlined the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill to combat ongoing national security threats. The bill will expand the power of authorities to suspend outgoing and incoming international travel of persons that are reasonably believed to be traveling to commit terrorism. The legislation will also broaden the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs) to allow authorities to force terrorist suspects to relocate within the country and will raise the burden of proof for TPIMs from a "reasonable belief" to a "balance of probabilities." May stressed the importance of bridging the "capabilities gap" that authorities must confront when dealing with communications data and announced that the bill will require Internet providers to retain IP addresses "to identify individual users of internet services," with some limitations. May urged the need for this legislation in response to new threats from the Islamic State (IS) and other established terrorist groups abroad.
The Spanish Constitutional Court on Nov. 4 suspended (PDF) the Catalonia region's upcoming symbolic vote to gauge public sentiment for independence. The unanimous decision to hear the government's appeal effectively bans the vote until the parties present arguments and the court makes a ruling. This vote was planned as an alternative to a referendum on independence that the court suspended in September. The decision was based on Article 161.2 of the Spanish Constitution, which states that the government can appeal resolutions and provisions adopted by the "autonomous communities" of Spain. As more than two million Catalans planned to vote on Nov. 9, and extensive plans had already been made, the Catalan government intends to proceed with the vote despite the constitutional court's ruling.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Oct. 31 announced that the proposed law on Internet tax will not be introduced in its current form. The law, which was due for a vote Nov. 17, drew criticism for its alleged potential effect of curtailing opposition voices. The proposed legislation sparked mass protests in Budapest and other cities around the country and EU, despite the government's justification that the law was proposed to reduce debt. The tax was originally set to be 150 forints ($0.62) per gigabyte of Internet traffic but would be capped at 700 forints per month. The law also received harsh criticism from yelecommunication firms and Internet companies that claimed it would reduce the country's competitiveness.
Multiple confrontations are impending between Russian authorities and the Tatar minority in annexed Crimea. Akhtem Chyyhoz, deputy head of the Majlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, stated this week that the Majlis will not comply with Moscow's demand that the assembly register within the framework of Russia's legislation on civic organizations and associations. "The point is that they are suggesting that we register at the level of a civic organization which is unacceptable since the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is an elected representative body," he said. "It is impossible to put it in the same category as civic organizations." The current head of the Majlis, Refat Chubarov, and former Majlis leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemiliev have both been banned from their homeland for five years by order of Russian authorities. The bans came after the Tatar leaders called for a boycott of the March referendum on Crimean secession from Ukraine, and then of the September Crimean elections. On Sept. 17, three days after the elections, FSB troops carried out a 12-hour-search of the Majlis premises in Simferopol. The following day, the Majlis was evicted from the building. (Human Rights in Ukraine, Oct. 22)
In a Sept. 9 statement, Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics accused Russia of carrying what is "in essence the ethnic cleansing" of the Tatar people from annexed Crimea. Mustafa Cemilev, leader of the Crimean Tatars who has been banned from his homeland by the Russian authorities, added that Russia's FSB security agency has been raiding the homes of Tatar leaders in an effort to intimidate them into fleeing Crimea, accusing Moscow of "the systematic violation of human rights on the peninsula." Russian authorities banned Cemilev from his homeland for five years after the annexation of the peninsula, and he took refuge in Kiev. But he said in an interview that Russian authorities have called for him to appear for an interrogation, and he fears he would be arrested if he appears. (EuroMaidan Press, Sept. 9)
We have been noting, with growing unease, a phenomenon we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism—witnessed both in the stateside far right Hitler-baiting Obama, and (more disturbingly) in the increasingly fascistic Vladimir Putin Nazi-baiting the Ukrainians. Now the websites Human Rights in Ukraine and Kyiv Post report on a far-right summit just held at Yalta (yes, in recently annexed Crimea, and the site of an Allied summit in World War II), attended by representatives of such unsavory entities as Hungary's Jobbik party, Belgium's Parti Communautaire National-Européen, and the British National Party—and overseen by Sergei Glazyev, a senior adviser to Putin, and Maxim Shevchenko, a member of Putin's human rights council (sic!). Predictably, this assemblage of neo-fascists discussed forming an "Anti-fascist Council" to oppose the "fascist junta in Kiev." Many of the Russian militants in attendance are said to have been followers of the Eurasia Party of Alexander Dugin—seemingly a key ideologue of Putin's Eurasian Union project.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his Western allies charge that Moscow has sent at least 1,000 regular army troops into the two easternmost oblasts of Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, to back up the separatist rebels there. Russia's President Vladimir Putin responds with an outburst of presumably unintentional irony. He compared Kiev's encirclement of rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk to the 900-day Nazi siege of Leningrad in which 1 million civilians died. Speaking at a pro-Kremlin rally at a lakeside youth camp, he also told supporters—some waving banners bearing his face—that Russia remains a strong nuclear power and therefore "it's best not to mess with us." He added that Russians and Ukrainians "are practically one people"—recalling his recent references to the disputed areas of southeastern Ukraine as "Novorossiya." So, let's get this straight... he accuses his enemies of being like the Nazis while enouraging a fascistic personality cult around his own leadership, while making claims to the territory of a neighboring country on ethno-nationalist grounds, and while threatening use of nuclear weapons. This is another example of what we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism. Although in Putin's case, it is barely crypto.