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Eastern Europeans Descend On Brussels

Brussels, March 25 (RFE/RL) - A Parade of Eastern European officials passes through Brussels this week. And our Brussels correspondent reports the events will stretch to the limits The schedules of high-ranking European Union (EU) and NATO officials.

Belarus' Prime Minister Mikhail Chygir opened today's events as he met European Ccmmission President Jacques Santer.

Bulgaria's President Zhelyu Zhelev visits NATO headquarters today, and after a meeting with Secretary General Javier Solana, Zhelev holds a news conference.

Latvia's President Guntis Ulmanis is meeting Italy Foreign Minister Susanna agnelli, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

Also today, eastern european ministers responsible for research projects consult EU ministers.

Tomorrow, Bulgaria's President Zhelev, Latvia's President Ulmanis and Estonia's President Lennart Meri meet European Commission President Santer. President Ulmanis will also deliver a lecture at the Brussels-based "Center for European Policy Studies." Ulmanis then meets NATO Secretary General Solana.

Wednesday, it is Estonia's President Meri's turn to address the North Atlantic Council, and to meet Solana.

Presidents Ulmanis and Meri will also visit the headquarters of the Western European Union (WEU), and the European parliament, where they meet parliament chairman Klaus Haensch.

President Ulmanis is accompanied by a large group of ministers, who will conduct separate meetings with colleagues in their fields.

Our correspondent reports that newspaper accounts of these visits focus mostly on Zhelev. In an interview published today in "La Libre Belgique," Zhelev blasts Sofia's socialist government, saying "after one year of socialist power, the country hasn't made any progress." "Look at the economy," Zhelev says, "no promise has been kept." Zhelev also asserts that foreign investment has declined, land reform is blocked, crime - especially organized crime - is rampant, and that censorship and repression of the media is staging a comeback.

Zhelev said he believes the socialists are simply incapable of governing Bulgaria in a democratic manner.

In an interview in today's "Le Soir," Zhelev says that by trying to re-establish close ties to Russia, Prime Minister Zhan Videnov's socialist government displays "a clear nostalgia" for the past. On the one hand, asserts Zhelev, "the socialists are still profoundly under the influence of their communist past; on the other, they are isolated on the international scene, and their contacts are with those in power in Moscow and Belgrade."