Judges’ association shocked by Vizjak’s statements

Ljubljana – The Slovenian Judges’ Association, a non-profit organisation uniting judges and retired judges, said on Thursday it was shocked by the statements made by Andrej Vizjak as the economy minister in 2007 in a new recording revealing his conversation with businessman Bojan Petan during privatisation of spa company Terme Čatež.

The association was referring to Vizjak saying in the recording that the government would “squeeze a judge’s balls” to get its way in the privatisation of Terme Čatež. It said that the “language used is outrageous and speaks for itself”.

The association’s head, Vesna Bergant Rakočević, said in a response for the STA that Vizjak’s comments revealed a “notable lack of understanding of the way the judiciary works” and pointed to “underestimating of the independence and autonomy of Slovenian judges”.

“Any kind of threats to judges are completely inadmissible in a democratic society and extremely worrying,” the association said.

In the recording released by POP TV yesterday, Vizjak is heard proposing to Petan a “gentleman’s agreement” on how to move forward with the privatisation of Terme Čatež, offering a variety of solutions, for example a tie-up with nearby spa Terme Olimia, which was in the process of privatisation at the time.

He also told Petan that the way he was going about the privatisation of Terme Čatež was bound to end up in court, adding that the government would counter his moves with “all cannons” and that they might “squeeze a judge’s balls” to achieve their aims.

Vizjak acknowledged the recording was authentic – POP TV had it checked by forensics to prove its authenticity – but said it should be seen in the context of the management of state-owned assets at the time, when the state was still directly the owner of multiple companies, and efforts to protect state interests.

He said he wanted to “prevent actions damaging to the state” and protect state property. He also regretted his statement about “squeezing a judge’s balls,” which he said was made in an informal context and was inappropriate.