New study finds that less than 10% of Norway’s laws emanate from Brussels


  • Study finds that less than 10% of Norway’s laws came from the EU between 2000-13.
  • Regularly quoted figure of 75% shown to be grossly exaggerated.
  • Norwegian model not so much a “fax-democracy” as EU laws found to be strongly debated in the Storting.



A theme that regularly pops up in the debate about Norway’s relationship with the EU is the extent to which Norway is already committed to EU regulations. The EEA Agreement links Norway to the EU internal market. However, a recent study has found that most of the regulations that the EU adopts remains outside the EEA Agreement.

The figures emerged after a review of the EFTA Secretariat’s annual reports and a search of the EU legislative database EUR Lex for the period 2000-13 by Morten Harper for the Norwegian ‘No to EU’ campaign group.

The study found that, annually, the EU adopts about ten times as many laws as are introduces in Norway through the EEA Agreement. During the period 2000-2013, a total of 4,724 acts were incorporated into the EEA Agreement. Over the same period, the EU simultaneously adopted 52,183 directives, regulations and other legal instruments. Only 9.05 percent of the new EU laws were thus incorporated into the EEA Agreement.

While the comparison does not say anything about the extent of the individual acts, it does clearly show that the EEA Agreement is considerably less regulation-heavy than EU-membership. 

In the UK, the assertion that Norway incorporates 75% of EU law is often made and the Norway option is often described as a ”Fax democracy”. Commentators, such as the UK Liberal Democrat Party, the BBC and Open Europe, cite a 2012 study commissioned by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry when making this case.

One section of that study reads:

“One of the aims of the report is to provide an overview of the scope of Norway’s set of agreements with the EU today. Under these agreements, Norway has incorporated approximately three-quarters of all EU legislative acts into Norwegian legislation and has implemented them more effectively than many of the EU member states. At the same time, Norway is neither a member of the EU nor involved in the decision-making processes to any significant extent.”

It would now appear that the findings of Mr Harper contradict those of the previous government’s study cited above that appear to grossly exaggerate the amount of EU legislative acts that Norway has had to incorporate.

A further important point is that the Storting, the Norwegian Parliament, must consent to all new EU agreements or legislative acts that entail significant new obligations for Norway. This means Norway has both a right of reservation and a lively domestic political debate on EU-laws such as the 3rd Postal Directive or the 3rd Railway package.