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Human rights within states are crucial to security among states. Prioritizing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, defending the principles of liberty, and encouraging tolerance within societies must be at the forefront of America's foreign policy agenda. Peace, security, and prosperity cannot be sustained if national governments repress their citizens, stifle their media, or imprison members of the political opposition. Authoritarian regimes become increasingly unstable as citizens chafe under the bonds of persecution and violence, and pose a danger not only to their citizens, but also to neighboring nations. The Helsinki Commission strives to ensure that the protection of human rights and defense of democratic values are central to U.S. foreign policy; that they are applied consistently in U.S. relations with other countries; that violations of Helsinki provisions are given full consideration in U.S. policymaking; and that the United States holds those who repress their citizens accountable for their actions. This includes battling corruption; protecting the fundamental freedoms of all people, especially those who historically have been persecuted and marginalized; promoting the sustainable management of resources; and balancing national security interests with respect for human rights to achieve long-term positive outcomes rather than short-term gains.
The Republic of Bulgaria, with a population of 7.3 million, is a parliamentary democracy and, along with neighboring Romania, the most recent NATO and EU member. The constitution vests legislative authority in the unicameral National Assembly. A coalition government headed by a prime minister has led the country since 2014. Elections in Bulgaria have generally complied with OSCE standards but vote buying remains a problem. The marginalization of the Romani minority remains the country’s most pressing human rights problem. Corruption has continued to undermine public trust in the judiciary and other government institutions.
The Commission has observed many Bulgarian elections since the fall of the Communist regime in 1990. In the late 1980s, the Commission was a leading voice in defending the rights of the ethnic Turkish minority, which was subjected to a forcible assimilation campaign at the time. The Commission has also been active in addressing the rights of the Romani population.
Staff Contact: Michael Cecire, senior policy advisor