The European Parliament endorsed on Tuesday to cease the compulsory summer time change which extends daylight hours across European countries. The new recommendation allows member states to decide from 2021 either to endorse the current summer time system or scrap the biannual clock changes. Currently, the 28 EU member states are forced to move the clocks an hour forward on last Sunday of March and revert back to winter time on the last Sunday of October.
A continent-wide public consultation last year initiated by the European Commission revealed that most citizens do not wish to retain the biannual time system. Specifically more than 84% of the respondents endorsed the progressive abolition of clock changes. This is reflected in 4.6 million responses most of which came from Germany and other northern EU states.
The European Parliament and Commission argue that a progressive abolition of the biannual clock change system is possible provided that the 28 member states harmonise their clocks so that economic and other types of disruptions do not occur during the transition stage.
Summer time under scrutiny
Daylight saving time (DST) was institutionalised for 28 member-states in 2001. The rationale behind its institutionalisation lies in diminishing energy expenses during daytime. The provision of an extra daylight hour during summertime would have facilitated reduction of energy costs and motivated citizens to spend more time outdoors.
Nonetheless, the DST measure has appeared so far to bring in marginal benefits in the area of costs lest in exercise patterns. Further the DST timeframe is not also endorsed by EU’s major counterparts such as China, Russia and Turkey. Additional considerations emerge from the outcome of scientific studies on the impact of DST schedule to human physiology.
Studies revealed that DST time adoption results lean more towards the negative than positive dimension. The Commission acknowledged that upon enforcement of the DST timeframe ‘the effect on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought.’ Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also retorted that:
‘There is no applause when EU law dictates that Europeans have to change the clocks twice a year. Clock-changing must stop. Member states should themselves decide whether their citizens live in summer or winter time.’
The Commission President’s statement infers that time nears for an ultimate and potentially uniform solution to be given by member states on the question of the DST time system. The final decision for those who endorse DST timeframe is expected to be ratified on the last Sunday of March 2021. The rest will ratify their winter timeframe decision on the last Sunday of October 2021.
Finland and Greece for example are major stakeholders to the DST timeframe dispute. Both countries operate under Eastern European time zone (Greenwich Mean Time plus two hours: GMT+2). Under the current biannual scheme, summertime prolongation facilitates Finland to enjoy daylight for roughly 19 hours during June, while Greece enjoys daylight for roughly 15 hours. During winter time nonetheless, Helsinki has only six hoursof daylight while Athens is of the most benefitted cities in Europe with ten hours daylight.
Similar problems emerge in other EU member-states as well. Europe currently operates under three standard time zones. The Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the Central European timeframe (GMT+1 hour) and the Eastern European time zone (GMT+2 hours). Britain, Ireland and Portugal operate under GMT timeframe, seventeen member states operate under Central European Time while the remaining eight fall into the Eastern European timeframe.