Will the EU end daylight savings?

The EU currently operates daylight savings times. This means that every spring and autumn, the clocks are adjusted by an hour across the bloc. However, a recent survey says that the majority of Europeans are actually opposed to this practice. In light of this, the EU has announced that it could end it altogether, and according to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, millions of people  “believe that in future, summer time should be year-round”, and “that’s what will happen”.

What are the current EU time zones?

There are currently three standard time zones in the EU. Seventeen member states use Central European Time (GMT+1); eight use Eastern European Time (GMT+2); and three states use GMT time. In 1996, due to the argument that it could reduce energy costs, the EU introduced the daylight savings rule. This means that the clocks go forward by an hour on the last Sunday in March.

They switch back on the last Sunday in October. However, this has been controversial, particularly since there are such large differences in daylight hours across the continent. For example. Nordic countries have very long nights during the winter months, and long daylight hours in the summer; whereas Southern European countries have a more even pattern throughout the year.

What’s the public opinion?

The public survey was carried out in July and August and found that 84% of the 4.6 million respondents were in favour of ending the daylight savings practice. This follows calls from Finland, which has one of the most northerly cities in Europe, for the EU to abolish it altogether. Some studies have shown that it can cause health problems, sleep disruptions, and can impact productivity at work. The Commission says: “Findings suggest that the effect on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought.”

What are the proposals?

The Commission has yet to publish the exact details of the changes. But, it would need support from MEP’s and 28 national governments in order for it to become law. After the release of a consultation paper,  Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein also suggested that the matter could become “a sovereign decision of each member state”, and that the new proposal was “to no longer constrain member states into changing clocks twice per year”.

He also rejected the concerns that the proposals could cause issues in Ireland. He said: “I don’t see the link between our quest which is undiminished, to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and our proposal, which will come in due course, to no longer constrain member states into changing clocks twice per year. One pertains to the internal market once adopted, the other initiative is to ensure the Good Friday Agreement and other safeguards remain in place.”

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