Europeans Could Be Turning Clock Back for the Last Time

European Commission has brought forward proposals for a new law to abolish the biannual move to daylight saving time
October 25, 2018 Updated: October 25, 2018

BRUSSELS—Europeans will turn their clocks back for what may be the very last time on Oct. 28, after regulators in Brussels decided to ditch the biannual change to daylight saving time.

The European Commission has advanced proposals for a new law that will make the 27 member states choose between permanently adopting permanent summer or winter time from next spring.

Officials say the changing of the clocks, which happens in October and March every year, is disruptive and negatively impacts business operations across the continent.

However, critics of the move have argued that national governments should retain ultimate control over setting the time and have accused Brussels of excessive meddling.

The commission has decided to act after a public survey, which drew a record 4.6 million respondents, showed overwhelming support among voters for ditching daylight saving time. European officials said the reaction from citizens was on a “massive, unprecedented scale” and that the consultation had sparked “the highest number of responses ever received.”

“Millions of Europeans used our public consultation to make their voices heard. The message is very clear: 84 percent of them do not want the clocks to change anymore,” said Violetta Bulc, the European commissioner for transport

“We will now act accordingly and prepare a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the council, who will then decide together.”

A ladder is put in place for a technician to service a huge clock in Cergy, France.
A ladder is put in place for a technician to service a huge clock in Cergy, France, in this file photo. (Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made ushering in the new law a key personal ambition before he retires next November. “We believe that in future, summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen,” he said.

However, a report published this week from the UK’s House of Lords European Union Committee revealed that 84.6 percent of replies to the poll came from just three countries, with an overwhelming 70 percent from Germany alone, prompting accusations that the poll isn’t representative.

Politicians from northern countries, including Lithuania, Finland, Poland, and Sweden, among others, have voiced support for reform and want the clock change dropped, due to their long, dark winters. They point to evidence that altering the time can cause short-term sleeping disorders, reduced performance at work, and even serious health problems such as heart attacks.

“Studies that show an increase in road accidents or sleep trouble during the time change must be taken seriously,” said Karima Delli, a French lawmaker at the European Parliament

She added that separate studies that show daylight saving time delivers efficiencies on energy consumption of between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent were “not conclusive” and don’t justify the downsides of the change.

The commission has said that scrapping the clock change is “essential,” in order to “safeguard the proper functioning of the internal market and avoid disruptions by uncoordinated action by member states.”

It argues that the current patchwork system could cause “potential disruption to the scheduling of transport operations and the functioning of information and communication systems, higher costs to cross-border trade, or lower productivity for goods and services”.

Officials want member states to choose whether to permanently adopt summer time or winter time and to notify them of their decisions by April next year.

However, a study carried out for the European Commission in 2014 found that the overwhelming majority of member states are happy with the status quo, prompting accusations from critics that the legislation is a waste of time.

“The Americans are talking about taxes, defending orders, and, here we are, crazily talking about a pointless and nugatory issue that doesn’t really interest Europe’s citizens and certainly not Italian citizens,” Italian lawmaker Angelo Ciocca said.

Meanwhile, the leader of Britain’s Conservatives in the European Parliament, Ashley Fox, added: “The setting of the time for a nation should remain with the government of that nation.

“Whether a country has summer time shouldn’t be for the Commission to decide.”

A European Commission spokesman said that the commission is aiming to abolish the biannual changing of the clocks, not the standard time of the member nations.

“Setting the standard time in a member state is, has always been and has always remained a sovereign decision.”