Daylight Savings Time: EU Parliament Votes to Stop Clock Changes

by Kim Boateng Posted on March 26th, 2019

The European Parliament advanced a plan to end the seasonal clock change in Europe, shifting the spotlight onto national governments as they wrestle with the initiative.

The European Union assembly voted on Tuesday to scrap as of 2021 the decades-old practice of capitalizing on natural daylight by putting clocks forward by 60 minutes between late March and late October.

Under the legislation approved by the 28-nation Parliament in Strasbourg, France, governments that want to be permanently on summertime would adjust their clocks for the final time on the last Sunday in March 2021. Those that opt for permanent wintertime would change their clocks for the final time on the last Sunday of October 2021.

While giving a fillip to a draft law proposed last year by the European Commission, the verdict by the EU Parliament risks being the only official word on the matter for many months because member countries are struggling to come up with their own positions.

The EU began to regulate daylight-saving time in the 1980s by harmonizing national practices. The goal was to prevent divergent approaches from undermining the European single market for transport, communications and commerce.

The notion of daylight-saving time is a lot older than that. The idea is attributed to a late British builder named William Willett, who wrote a 1907 pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight,” and the practice was first instituted in 1916 by Germany and followed by other European countries and the U.S. to conserve energy for their World War I efforts, according to an EU Parliament study.

The October 2017 report says that, while daylight-saving time benefits the transport industry, helps outdoor leisure activities and reduces energy consumption, it is associated with disruptions to the human biorhythm.

The Brussels-based commission, the EU’s executive arm, rushed out the proposal in September to stop the seasonal clock change on the grounds the move would win plaudits from voters in the bloc’s legislative elections this May. Under the commission’s plan, now amended by the EU Parliament, the practice would have ended this year.

EARLIER: EU Moves To End Daylight Savings Time

The European Commission, the legislative arm of the European Union, revealed its findings Friday on whether to abandon daylight savings time.

The online consultation, which ran from 4 July to 16 August 2018, received 4.6 million responses from all 28 Member States, the highest number of responses ever received in any Commission public consultation. According to the preliminary results (see annex), 84% of respondents are in favour of putting an end to the bi-annual clock change.

European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc presented these preliminary results to the College of Commissioners that held a first discussion on the possible next steps. Commissioner Bulc said: “Millions of Europeans used our public consultation to make their voices heard. The message is very clear: 84% of them do not want the clocks to change anymore. We will now act accordingly and prepare a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council, who will then decide together.”

The preliminary results also indicate that more than three quarters (76%) of the respondents consider that changing the clock twice a year is a ‘very negative’ or ‘negative’ experience. Considerations related to the negative health impacts, increase of road accidents or the lack of energy savings, were put forward by respondents as motivations to put an end to the change.

European Commission President Juncker put the summertime question on the political agenda as part of his pledge to be big on the big things while leaving it to Member States to take decisions where they are best placed to do so. The public consultation on clock change arrangements was organised by the European Commission as part of its ongoing assessment of the current arrangements on clock change in Europe. It also follows the European Parliament’s resolution in February 2018, as well as requests from Member States, stakeholders and citizens.

Next steps

The final results of the public consultation will be published in the coming weeks. The Commission will now make a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council with a view of changing the current clock change arrangements.

Background

Between 4 July and 16 August 2018, the European Commission organised a public consultation as part of its ongoing assessment of the current arrangements on clock change in Europe. It took the form of an online survey seeking the views of Europeans, notably on their overall experience with the change of clock or their preference over the main alternatives (i.e. maintaining the current system unchanged or abolishing it for the whole EU). Public consultations are one of the tools the Commission uses to make its assessment on policy, alongside other elements such as scientific studies. Other past prominent consultations include the Birds and Habitat legislation (more than 550,000 replies) or the modernisation of the Common Agriculture Policy (more than 322,000 replies).

Most Member States have an old tradition of clock change arrangements, many of which date back as far as the First and Second World Wars or to the oil crisis in the 1970s. Since the 1980’s, the European Union gradually adopted legislation whereby all Member States would agree to coordinate the clock change and put an end to diverging national schedules. Since 1996, all Europeans have been changing their clock forward by one hour on the last Sunday of March and by one hour backward on the last Sunday of October. The purpose of EU rules was not to harmonise the time regime in the EU but to address the problems, notably for the transport and logistics sectors, which arise from an uncoordinated application of clock-changes in the course of the year.

In parallel to the daylight saving time arrangement in the European Union, the Member States apply three different time zones or standard times. The decision on the standard time is a national competence.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker earlier said, “There was a public survey, millions answered and are of the view that it’s the summertime that should be used all the time in the future, and so it will be. People want this, we’re doing this.”

The 28-member EU spans three time zones, and the concept of daylight savings time has been uniformly regulated throughout the economic bloc since 2002. Adherents point to energy savings, and several northern EU countries favor a move to permanent summer hours to combat winter darkness. Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden are among those who seek abolition of the time change, the Express said.

A similar survey, in 2014, found that most member states preferred the time change. The move to a permanent time would require approval by the European Parliament and by each country’s government.

A commission spokesman said the 2018 poll was conducted on a “massive, unprecedented scale” and prompted “the highest number of responses ever received.” He added, though, that it was “not a referendum. It’s an element that we’ll take account of when we come up with our policy recommendations.”

Several U.S. states have operated on their own clocks. Arizona and Hawaii have never adopted daylight saving time; Indiana, long a holdout, did so in 2006. Earlier this year, Florida adopted a law to keep the state on daylight saving time year-round — but that change would require approval in Congress, and the legislation hasn’t moved forward.

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