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Goodbye winter time? The EU is to recommend that the clocks should not change anymore

Member states will be able to make their own decision on the time change.

The EU wants the clocks to remain on summer time.
The EU wants the clocks to remain on summer time.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

THE EUROPEAN UNION will recommend member countries abolish the twice-yearly clock change following an unprecedented citizen appeal that drew immediate support from Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy.

The European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation bloc, said most EU citizens answering an online survey complained that the time change was disruptive, caused sleep problems, harmed their health and increased road accidents.

“Millions of Europeans used our public consultation to make their voices heard,” Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc said as the executive commission pledged to act on the findings.

“The message is very clear: 84% of them do not want the clocks to change anymore,” Bulc said at the commission’s annual retreat to a lake side hotel in Genval, Belgium.

Under the proposal still being fine tuned, Bulc said it will be up to each individual member state to decide whether they follow winter time or summer time.

She told reporters the commission is now preparing a proposal to send to the European Parliament and the 28 member countries in the following weeks, one she said could be enacted by 2020 or 2021.

According to preliminary results, some 4.6 million European citizens responded to the online poll — the biggest in EU history, Bulc said — on whether they wanted the change.

By far the highest responses came from Germany and Austria.

The UK’s imminent departure from the European Union has the potential to create the scenario where Belfast and Dublin are in different timezones should Ireland choose to follow the EU’s directive while the UK continues to change its times biannually.

But responding to the recommendation, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune said keeping the clocks constant would be a positive change. 

“Having brighter evenings in winter would lead to improved outcomes for road safety as the roads are statistically more dangerous from the hours of 4-7 pm,” Clune said this afternoon.

There are obvious economic benefits such as reduced energy consumption because of less need for artificial light in the evenings with a consequent reduction in CO2 emissions. Brighter evenings in winter would have a positive benefit for public health. 

Merkel

Elsewhere, German Chancellor Angela Merkel threw her weight behind supporters of the change in her country

“This will be for me a very big priority,” she said during a visit to the Nigerian capital of Abuja,

Six other member states support the change, Bulc said, without naming them.

Since 1996, all Europeans have been advancing their clock by one hour on the last Sunday of March and putting it back one hour on the last Sunday of October. 

The Slovenian said survey respondents in Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic wanted to stay on winter time throughout the year but the commission still needs to check the results.

CHOGM 2018 LONDON PREPARATION The UK will have a post-Brexit decision to make. Source: PA Images

Do what citizens say?

Bulc said the proposal must be worked out carefully as it will affect businesses, particularly those that deal with train, bus, truck and airline schedules.

Many European countries began changing the clock seasonally in World War I on the premise it saved energy, with the practice reinforced during World War II and during the energy crisis in the 1970s.

Residents of North America follow the same ritual.

But Bulc said there is “no obvious evidence” of energy savings, particularly in a modern economy switching to cleaner forms of energy.

“Our habits have changed,” she said.

Speaking to German public broadcaster ZDF, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the survey indicated “summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen”.

“I will recommend to the Commission that, if you ask the citizens, then you have to do what the citizens say,” said the former Luxembourg premier, speaking in German.

Senior politicians in northern EU countries like Lithuania, Finland, Poland and Sweden — which have long dark nights in winter and short nights in summer — have long criticised the seasonal time change.

Though an unprecedented number of people responded to the 4 July – 16 August, the participation rate was 0.89% of the population across the bloc, with the highest in Germany at 3.79 percent and the lowest in the UK, which is leaving the EU, at 0.02 percent.

After Germany, participation in Austria was at 2.94% and 1.78% in tiny Luxembourg.

What do you think?

Poll: Should we stop the twice-yearly clock change?


Poll Results:

Yes, follow the EU's lead (10051)
No, we should keep changing (1720)
It depends what the UK does (596)



© – AFP 2018 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

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