The EU And Telecoms (Part 2)

Following from part 1 we continue with part 2 where we explore more fully EU telecoms regulations and its current situation especially regarding Flexcit.

As happens in other areas of EU competence, laid down by the treaties, member states must adhere to the telecommunications chapter of the EU acquis and are bound together by network governance and by harmonisation measures as a consequence. These span shared policies and legislation, implementation and regulation, standards and the accreditation of qualifications.

It’s interesting that what is often overlooked is the EU is a project not yet finished. It currently remains a work in progress following the engrenage (gearing) principle the well established method to engineer another leap forward in integration, the slow, salami-slicing approach adopted by Jean Monnet.

This principle has the consequence that while it continues a process of hollowing out member states competences and trying to move them up to EU level that there often occurs a period of absence of any competence at all. In this we are reminded of Booker’s comment on a criticism of evolution:

Years ago…Attenborough himself [claimed] to ‘prove’ Darwin’s theory by showing us a mouse and a bat, explaining how one evolved into the other. He seemed oblivious to the obvious point that, as the mouse’s forelegs evolved by minute variations to wings, there must have been a long period when the creature, no longer with properly functioning legs but as yet unable to fly, was much less ‘adapted to survive’ than it had been before.

For the regulation of network industries there have been delegations of powers by governments of the member states to EU institutions, notably to the European Commission (EC), but also to their own domestic National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs). This was somewhat ad hoc and piecemeal in the 1980s and 1990s, however from the 1999 Electronic Communications Services review (COM(1999) 539 final, 10.11.1999) the intentions and the outcomes increasingly concentrated on a more systematic approach.

Yet there continues to be considerable variations between member states which the European Commission and the European Parliament sought to reduce the disorder and to complete the single market for telecommunications.

As we previously noted the UK regulator Ofcom – determined to breakup BT’s monopoly further – used competition law powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 – itself a result of EU Directives – to come to an agreement with BT over a separate network access division called Openreach which would offer its wholesale products on an equivalent basis to both external customers and itself.

The establishment of Openreach and its relationship to external customers at the time was unique to the UK within the EU and its experience was studied by regulators in other European countries who experienced similar competition problems arising from the presence of a large incumbent telecommunications operator, such as France Telecom.

Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner who in 2006 was in charge of telecommunications regulation, took inspiration from the UK in forcing the “structural separation” of incumbent telecom operators into service and infrastructure divisions across the European Union.

With this in mind Reding unveiled proposals aimed at not only extending competition among telecom operators, but also the the idea of one single EU wide telecom regulator, to act as an umbrella organization for Member States’ national regulators. Reding’s proposals became the “review of EU Telecom rules: Strengthening Competition and Completing the Internal Market” which argued that:

“The most effective way to achieve a real level playing field for telecom operators across the EU would of course be to create an independent European telecom regulator that would work together with national regulators in a system, similar to the European System of Central Banks. In such a system, national regulators would continue to act as direct contact points with operators and could directly analyse the market. At the same time, a light European agency, independent from the Commission and from national governments, could ensure by guidelines and, if necessary, instructions that EU rules are applied consistently in all Member States.”

Here Reding sought to achieve “a real level playing field” by tackling what she called the three issues; Firstly the need for more internal market integration for a more effective use of radio spectrum. Falling back on the traditional EEC/EU arguments of fish, pollution or ‘climate change’ which knows no country boundaries as a reason for extending EU competences Reding relies on this regarding spectrum:

Radio spectrum itself knows no borders, but it is managed at national level, normally in an administrative, bureaucratic way that creates scarcity by prescribing in detail what every part of the spectrum may be used for in that Member State.

I also believe that we need to put the idea of a European spectrum agency on the table…we have to recognise the competitive disadvantage the EU faces because, instead of having one single regime for spectrum management and spectrum licensing, as they do in the US, we have 25 different ones.

Reding also argued that with the “switch from analogue to digital TV there is a one off opportunity to re-use the analogue frequencies for new technologies”. The second issue she addressed was better regulation:

“…a more consistent application of the EU telecom rules”. In the telecom sector, where neither technology nor economic interest nor consumer behaviour know national borders any more, I see a clear, long overdue need to make the internal market a reality also in regulatory terms”.

The third proposal was that there should be no “regulatory holidays” in the face of technological advances and with the liberalisation of the telecoms market should come “structural separation”:

Structural separation means that telecom regulators could require a dominant operator to provide non-discriminatory access to all operators by separating infrastructure provision from service provision to a greater or lesser extent. Today, the EU rules in force do not foresee structural separation as a regulatory remedy on the telecom markets. But I see that the United Kingdom, which has opted for a form of structural separation at national level, has made good experiences with this remedy. 

Her legislative proposal was for a European Electronic Communications Market Authority (EECMA) in which the EC sought a formal cooperation structure to remedy the lack of coherence within the internal market, which included “a fragmentation of European markets” and the absence of mechanisms for authorising cross-border services (e.g., mobile and IP-based services).

This proposal was significantly reshaped by the Parliament (which increased its own influence as a consequence) and the Council and, via Regulation (EC) No 1211/2009, became the Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communications (BEREC):

The main objective of this body is to enhance cooperation among national regulatory authorities (NRAs) and to strengthen the internal market in electronic communications networks.

BEREC consists of NRAs members where each is nominated per Member State. (NRAs from the European Economic Area (EEA) States only have observer status and are represented “at an appropriate level”). Thus BEREC consolidated the “official” status of NRAs despite having no democratic credentials.

BEREC itself conducts its business in secret and it attempts to justify this by claiming that there is often a special requirement to avoid public scrutiny and stakeholder involvement. We can see this secrecy, or ‘independence’ officially laid out under Regulation (EC) No 1211/2009 Article 4: Composition and organisation of BEREC:

The members of the Board of Regulators shall neither seek nor accept any instruction from any government, from the Commission, or from any other public or private entity.

In addition, there is a lack of clarity whether its decisions and opinions can be challenged in the EU courts alongside that it is unaccountable before the EU parliament, giving it a democratic and judicial deficit. Even the mechanism for engagement with BEREC is through consultations on terms determined by the organisation itself.

Aside from BEREC, further complications in European telecoms governance arise from earlier attempts at European harmonisation mechanisms via European Regulatory Networks (ERNs).

ERNs were established particularly with network sectors in mind; designed to respond to the multiplication of regulators and their uneven development. ERNs were an attempt to address by the need for greater co-ordination in implementing  regulation by member states. 

However within the institutional design of ERNs lies their genesis. Their design reflects acutely the difficultly of trying to move from national governance to one of supranational governance. Having been given grandiose tasks, the European Commission and national governments still maintained many powers. Here then we see the creation of double delegation, with powers “delegated up” from the NRAs and “delegated” down from the EU with the inevitable result of dissatisfaction:

The EU’s ‘double delegation’ to IRAs and the EU Commission has led to major and as yet unresolved problems of coordination and implementation.

Thus this means that ERNs can be seen as a ‘second best’ method of dealing with implementation of EU regulation; a compromise between EU ‘colleagues’ pressing for greater European integration and those member states, especially national governments, reluctant to endorse it fully. The compromise inevitably means that while more uniform regulation by coordinating approaches and functions was the intention, there has been little evidence of success in harmonisation and no attempts even to measure the effectiveness of the measures.

But within ERNs remains legacy EU regulatory telecoms governance that sits alongside and is distinct from BEREC, and this is apparent in the various EU bodies such as the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC);

The Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) is responsible for specific technical measures required to implement the broader Radio Spectrum Policy. The RSC is composed of Member State representatives and chaired by the European Commission.

Established by the 2002 Radio Spectrum Decision (676/2002/EC), the Radio Spectrum Committee (RSC) is assisting the Commission for the development of technical implementing decisions to ensure harmonised conditions across Europe for the availability and efficient use of radio spectrum.

…and the Radio Spectrum Policy Group (RSPG) which enables Member States, the Commission and stakeholders to coordinate the use of radio spectrum.

Here we can see that unlike the secret nature of BEREC, bodies such as the RSC and the RSPG within ERNs involve extensive consultation amongst all stakeholders, which include “regulatory authorities and the ministries having responsibility for radio spectrum related matters in each Member State”, manufacturers, network operators and users.

RSC and RSPG are also part of the comitology process which allows the Commission to discuss its proposals with national administrations before implementation in order to ensure that any measure is optimised to the various national situations. Thus under these rules the following associations are permitted to be consulted:

The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) – which brings together 40 European consumer organisations from 31 countries (EU, EEA and applicant countries). 

International Telecommunications Users Group INTUG – an international association of business users of telecommunication.

European Communities Trade Mark Association ECTA – which in addition to having close links with the European Commission and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (Trade Marks and Designs) (OHIM), ECTA is recognised by WIPO as a non-Government Organisation (NGO).

European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association  ETNO – who are pan-European operators and has been the voice of Europe’s telecommunications network operators since 1992

GSM Association GSMA– is an association of mobile operators and related companies devoted to supporting the standardising, deployment and promotion of the GSM mobile telephone system.

Digital Europe

We can see therefore that even under EU telecoms governance and the comitology process there is extensive consultation with international associations. A further example can be seen with the European Conference on Posts and Telecoms (CEPT). CEPT extends far beyond the EU, including the countries of the former USSR and currently includes 48 countries in its membership.

And it is with international relationships with the EU we will examine further in part three. But first we will look at the EEA agreement where although there is commitment to adhering to the EU telecommunications acquis there is more flexibility with regard to the implementation as per the EEA agreement.

And it’s with the EEA’s relationship regarding telecoms and the EU where we turn our attention to next.


Cameron: Being Less Than Candid

Witterings from Witney back in June requested a meeting with his MP – David Cameron – in order to try to take him to task on being less than candid on matters EU.

Yesterday WfW had such a meeting with his MP. Time constraints meant, due to the involved subject matter, a verbal meeting would be inadequate to cover the issues sufficiently, so instead a dossier was handed over to Cameron in person to reply to in writing.

The contents of the full dossier submitted to Cameron can be found on WfW’s blog, where, in themes familiar to us, questions have been asked about the “veto that never was”, the “European budget cut that never was” and that “Norway is not governed by fax”.

Interestingly WfW notes (my emphasis):

I only spent just over 5 minutes with David Cameron as I did not wish to give him the opportunity of providing a short verbal response, wishing him to commit himself to a written response. Skimming through, he repeated that he had vetoed a treaty and cut the budget; although he made no mention of negating any bailout. The section on Norway appeared to ‘stop him in his tracks’

A couple of interesting points emerge here. Cameron is happy to reiterate inaccurately to a constituent that he vetoed a “non-existent” treaty yet at the time in 2011 he could not make the same commitment to the House of Commons.

On a slightly more optimistic note, having spoken to WfW last night, it appears that the arguments against the “Norway governed by fax” may have come as something of a surprise to Mr Cameron. It leaves us wondering whether he has been poorly briefed on this matter.

Sometimes it shouldn’t be underestimated how ignorant most MPs are about the EU and how much they are susceptible to a meme that is well established and doing the rounds by those with prestige.

The view that ignorance not conspiracy is often the cause is understandable particularly when we consider that the eurosceptic movement is not immune to this either, as illustrated by the continuing nonsense over November the 1st.  The below graphic is doing the rounds on Facebook:

Thus if Cameron has been poorly briefed he might subsequently have a “Pauline Conversion”. We suspect not of course and his written responses will be interesting. But one thing remains true – thanks to WfW Mr Cameron can no longer deny he wasn’t told…

"500 Years Of Democracy"

I stumbled upon this rather short film by the BBC – shown above- which is about the Swiss relationship with the EU. It allegedly reports on…

“…the Swiss psyche and its complicated legal arrangements with the EU. Some Eurosceptics see the Switzerland as model for a potential future UK-EU relationship, if Britain were to cut, or loosen, its links with Brussels.”

How a film that only lasts 2mins 43 seconds long can expect to examine all the “complicated legal arrangements” is an interesting concept. But I guess the only way to gauge is to watch it. The film doesn’t start off well – indulging in cliché and inaccuracy:

“…Switzerland’s relationship with the EU is a bit like a cuckoo clock – a bit in and a bit out. In Europe but not in the EU.”

Ah a “Swiss cuckoo clock”. Despite that the cuckoo clock is German in origin regardless of Orsen’s Welles’ famous speech in the film The Third Man. Yet more importantly is the tone of the BBC film. While quickly rattling through a basic summary giving the apparently obligatory ‘pros and cons’ it comes the following conclusions:

But Eurosceptics say the referendum ranks alongside the scenery and the chocolates – it’s one of Switzerland’s attractions.

And in response to Dieter Freiburghaus arguing in support of the Swiss relationship:

Thanks Dieter but many would suggest the idea of a more detached Swiss style arrangement is…well… totally cuckoo.

It would be difficult to think of a more sarcastic pro-EU partisan based sign off to a film.

Despite the unbelievably patronising sentiments of the BBC piece, the facts though do indicate that the Swiss option is not great for the UK.

The Swiss option was born out of a fudge – a consequence of the refusal of the Swiss to join the European Economic Area (EEA) in the ‘90s and their subsequent refusal to join the EU. Instead trading arrangements with the EU are based on a series of “pick and mix” bilateral agreements with over 120 agreements in place.

And while there are some significant advantages – democracy, the Swiss as seen recently can reject EU measures in a referendum – the arrangements are also seen as unnecessarily and fiendishly complex. Bilateral agreements are far too complex and time-consuming to administer. And indeed rather than maintaining distance from the EU it has proved to be a means of moving Switzerland closer to the EU  – about 40 percent of Swiss legislation derives from EU rules.

Overall, the Swiss approach – which includes the Schengen Association Agreement (SAA) – is regarded as unique to the country. It is an exception, developed over time, rather than a recognised formal model of EU relationship.

And because of difficulties it is not seen as an example that can be readily applied to the UK. MPs from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, for example, found on a visit to Berne in 2013 that the EU did not wish to continue with the current system (page 77):

It was stressed to [the UK] in Berne that the EU did not wish to continue with the current system of EU-Swiss bilateral agreements. For the EU, they are too complex and time-consuming to administer.

More importantly, the EU considers that, without any provision for Switzerland’s automatic adoption of new legislation in areas covered by its bilateral agreements, and without any dispute settlement mechanism, the current system creates “legal uncertainty”.

In December 2012, the EU said that “the approach taken by Switzerland to participate in EU policies and programmes through sectoral agreements in more and more areas […] has reached its limits and needs to be reconsidered. Any further development of the complex system of agreements would put at stake the homogeneity of the Internal Market”.

Since December 2010 the EU as been refusing to move forward on any further bilateral agreements that Switzerland might seek until the Swiss Government agrees to establish an overarching institutional framework that would ensure the homogenous interpretation and application between the EU and Switzerland of the relevant Single Market rules. Professor Schwok suggested that the “Swiss model no longer exists because the EU wants its relationship with Switzerland to move closer to the EEA benchmark”

So although the Swiss model has its benefits it is very unlikely to be repeated. But naturally in a film of only a couple of minutes long the BBC did not even attempt to explore any of these issues in detail. One could consider this just an oversight yet we have evidence of the BBC dismissing other EU exit options based on lies.

I guess the BBC would consider this little film as part of having to fulfil their “neutral” quota, but it does demonstrate come a referendum our state broadcaster cannot be trusted to give us all the details in what is a complex subject.

Instead it resorted to patronising partisan soundbites.

Government By Fax? EEA Member Iceland Says No

Contrary to the consistently clear… naked… lie from David Cameron (and he is aware his assertion is untrue) that Norway – and thus other EEA members – have “no say”, Iceland demonstrates yet again that membership of the EEA does in fact mean having a say in Single Market rules.

As documented on this blog recently Iceland has been involved with one of biggest rejections of the EU there has ever been by an EEA member, one which centred around two legal arguments, over the collapse of Icesave. This has been an ongoing legal battle until the judgement today.

The Telegragh reports:

After the collapse four years ago of Iceland’s top lenders during the credit crunch, the British and Dutch governments stepped in to repay savers in the online “Icesave” account run by Landsbanki and wanted Iceland to pay them back directly.

Iceland did not comply, triggering a row between the governments and potentially complicating the island’s bid to join the European Union.

But the court of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) ruled that Iceland did not break depositor protection laws by refusing to return the money. 

In other words the EU said “you have 20 seconds to comply“, Iceland, with a population of only around 313,000, said with success:

The assertion that Norway et al is governed by fax is looking more ridiculous by the day. I wonder if the Telegraph editorial team will even take note of its own report…?

Iceland says no, files its fax in the bin, and tells EU member states that it does not comply…

Iceland And The EEA

It’s been quite heartening and uplifting in the last few days that a handful of bloggers, and committed commenters, have rattled Open Europe’s cage to the extent that they now acknowledge, albeit very very grudgingly, far from having no influence Norway does in fact have a say within the EEA Agreement. Given the tone of Mats Persson’s Telegraph article, one suspects that Open Europe is not used to having its ‘eurosceptic’ credentials questioned, particularly with simple things like facts. This is especially important given that our esteemed Prime Minister reads blog comments.

Autonomous Mind has another example of Norway saying no to the EU regarding EU plans for harmonisation of environmental policy relating to oil and gas energy:

The Norwegian government has taken the view that the proposed regulation by the European Commission falls outside the geographic and substantive scope of the EEA agreement.

As AM notes:

Oh dear, David Cameron and Open Europe caught out lying again. You would think the media would be all over this, unless of course they have vested interests or are getting pressure from their owner barons to exercise bias by omission and ignore this important story…

Open Europe also seem oblivious that the EEA is not just Norway, but also Iceland and Liechtenstein. And it is to Iceland we turn our attention as it is involved with one of biggest rejections of the EU there has ever been by an EEA member. The dispute relates to the collapse of the Icesave online savings account in 2008 which infamously prompted the UK to invoke terrorist legislation against it. Crucially, when Icesave collapsed, EU countries, notably the UK and the Netherlands, attempted to force Iceland to fulfill its EU obligations. The arguments centered around two legal arguments:

  1. …that the Icelandic government is obliged to guarantee at least the first €20,000 in Icesave accounts;
  2. …that Iceland’s actions surrounding the collapse of Landsbanki are discriminatory against non-Icelandic creditors.

The first challenge comes under EU Directive 94/19/EC, which was incorporated into Icelandic law in 1999, the second is that Iceland is in breach of its obligations under Article 4 of the EEA Agreement which says:

Within the scope of application of this Agreement, and without prejudice to any special provisions contained therein, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.

The second is in accordance of Article 7 of the Treaty of Rome. Iceland’s reluctance to reimburse foreign countries for money lost in its banks prompted, at the time, the following conversation between Alistair Darling and the Icelandic Finance Minister Árni Mathiesen (now hidden behind the Times firewall):

(AD) Do I understand that you guarantee the deposits of Icelandic depositors?

(AM)Yes, we guarantee the deposits in the banks and branches here in Iceland.

(AD) But not the branches outside Iceland?

(AM) No, not outside of what was already in the letter that we sent.

(AD) But is that not in breach of the EEA Treaty?

(AM) No, we don’t think so and think this is actually in line with what other countries have been doing over recent days.

Curiously, Alistair Darling in his book, Back from the Brink doesn’t mention this conversation nor indeed any reference whatsoever to the EEA. Yet Iceland wasn’t for backing down – a resolution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of the EEA (opens as a Word Document) adopted unanimously on 28 October 2009 emphasised:

…the Directive’s lack of clarity over the legal obligations of governments if national guarantee funds, which are funded by contributions from relevant credit institutions, do not suffice for payments following a banking crisis, and more importantly if an entire banking system of a country collapses;


…underlines that the shortcomings of the Directive became apparent in October 2008 when the banking crisis in Iceland spilled over to the economies of other EEA States;

In other words Iceland, via the EEA, is contesting both charges, charges that are still ongoing amid complex legal arguments after four years and two referendums later. A judgement that rather than be passed by an EU court will be ruled on by the EFTA court instead, and is due on 28th of this month. Iceland’s case for the defence can be found here.

And that is the point, Iceland is a small country with a population of circa 313,000; a country with fewer people than the London Borough of Croydon which has 363,000, yet here it is with resilience, influence and the ability to say no. One can only look on in envy.

Iceland’s main problem is unfortunately its size. That it may have to capitulate is less to do with flaws in the EEA/EFTA agreement but instead that it is being bullied, shamefully by, as the Icesave episode demonstrates, the UK. Being a member of the EU will not resolve that, ask Ireland, Czech Republic or Luxemburg

However, that Iceland can stand up for itself, while the UK will have no choice, but to adopt the attributes of a nodding dog within the EEA, is quite frankly absurd.

More to follow…

EU Law And Norway

It’s been rather revealing that online comments made by myself, and others, on MSM sites in recent days regarding the Norway model has prompted copious numbers of vigorous and often detailed, albeit incorrect, strawmen rebuttals in response. While the Norway model is by no means perfect, and hopefully only a temporary solution to help negate the inevitable ‘economic disaster’ arguments in a referendum, that it has struck such a nerve indicates the option has merit, at least in the short term.

Sadly though as, Witterings From Witney points out, so-called experts such as the Adam Smith Institute still remain resolutely of the opinion that EEA/EFTA members; Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland have no say over EU law:

The EU Federalists have already written the script for the UK’s new relationship as an “associate member”.  We will be subject to all the regulations and costs of EU membership without any influence or voting rights.  That is roughly the deal Norway currently has.

Which is completely untrue…by a country mile. Such assertions go against the Norwegian Government, the Norwegian Parliament, the Unions in Norway, the Norwegian Postal Service, Iceland (page 15):

On few occasions EEA directives have however been disputed to the extent that it has spurred a general political debate over the possible veto right, among them were the directive on electricity providers, the one on sewers, and most recently, the service directive.

And even Liechtenstein, who on their website, link to this short EEA Factsheet which says:

In the joint bodies, which are responsible for the preparation of decisions, decision-making and despite resolution, each EEA/EFTA State has one vote. The EU states speak with a single voice in these bodies. Since the decisions are reached unanimously, each EEA/EFTA State on its own and the EU States jointly have a veto.

That to argue being a member without any influence or voting rights is to effectively accuse three whole countries of being entirely wrong, not withstanding EFTA itself.

Crucially though the significance of a veto takes on more potency when we look at secondary EU legislation. Here EU law is made up of Regulations, Directives, Decisions and non-binding Recommendations and Opinions. The most common are Directives and Regulations. Directives according to the EU:

…lay down certain end results that must be achieved in every Member State. National authorities have to adapt their laws to meet these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. Directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them.

Not only do they not always apply to every member state but there is a degree of flexibility on how it is to be implemented domestically. Unfortunately in practice rather than take the minimum option, a number of countries, including the UK adopt a gold plating strategy. And Norway is no exception:

…the changes in the Norwegian legislation go beyond what the [European Agency Workers] Directive requires.

But that is an issue for individual countries and their pro-EU parliaments, which means that any kind of ‘influence’ in the EU doesn’t stop member states gleefully adding to laws that apparently they were trying to water down within the EU.

Then there are EU Regulations which are (my emphasis)…

…the most direct form of EU law – as soon as they are passed, they have binding legal force throughout every Member State, on a par with national laws. National governments do not have to take action themselves to implement EU regulations.

They are different from directives, which are addressed to national authorities, who must then take action to make them part of national law, and decisions, which apply in specific cases only, involving particular authorities or individuals.

Regulations are passed either jointly by the EU Council and European Parliament, and by the Commission alone.

Regulations therefore completely bypass a country’s elected Parliament, in the EU’s words; “This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States”.

However while we have but no choice to accept EU Regulations that don’t even come anywhere near Parliament, being a member of the EEA means we can give back power to Parliament the choice to veto. As an example here is below page 3 of the Draft Joint Committee Decisions under consideration by EEAS and EFTA, dated Monday 17 December 2012 (click to enlarge):

Four EU Regulations, two of which have an EU compliance date of 2007, are still under consideration in December 2012.

Aside from the veto there is also influence, confirmed by just a cursory look at the EFTA website:

the EEA EFTA States can participate in shaping a decision at the early stages of preparing a legislative proposal. The EEA Agreement provides for input from the EEA EFTA side at various stages of the preparation of EEA-relevant legislation:

Which can take the form of:

– First, representatives of the EEA EFTA States have the right to participate in expert groups and committees of the European Commission. They participate extensively in the preparatory work of the Commission and should be consulted in the same manner as EU experts. The Commission may seek advice from the EEA EFTA experts by phone or by correspondence, or in meetings. The experts may also be associated with the preparatory work through regular committee meetings.

– Second, the EEA EFTA States have the right to submit EEA EFTA comments on upcoming legislation

Examples of comments by EEA EFTA on upcoming legislation can be found here, going back to 2001:

One of the ways in which the EEA EFTA States participate in shaping EC legislation, i.e. when the Commission is drawing up legislative proposals, is by submitting comments on important policy issues.
The comments are elaborated by working groups, cleared by the relevant subcommittees, endorsed by the Standing Committee and officially noted by the Joint Committee after they have been sent to the relevant services in the Commission and the European Parliament. 

So it’s clear, that while the Norway model is not perfect, that it has no “influence or voting rights” is high deception on stilts. That the likes of the Adam Smith Institute can regurgitate such arguments when a simple and quick look on the internet proves the fallacy of their position begs one to ask what is the point of them?