European Commission launches consultation on summertime hour change

unsplash-logoJon Tyson

The 4th of July, the European Commission launched a public consultation concerning the hour change in summertime, to collect the opinions of European citizens and decide whether to keep or stop the summertime arrangements.

Artículo disponible en Español | Article disponible en Français

Said consultation was launched the 4th of July and closes soon, the 16th of August.

The summertime arrangement in the EU has been an annoyance for a large amount of people, forcing citizens to change the clocks twice a year to take advantage of daylight and, following the reasoning, have more daylight during the day, and save on the energy bill. Depending on the country, such arrangement was set up at different periods, such as during the First and Second World Wars, of the oil crisis in the 70’s, with, as previously mentioned, the main idea of saving energy.

Back in the 80’s, some harmonization was done across the existing Union, and finally unified by the Directive 2000/84/EC in 2001, requiring all EU member states to apply the arrangements, switching to summertime on the last Sunday of March and switching back to wintertime on the last Sunday of October.

Due to the complaints of a large number of citizens, and even some governments such as Finland, asking for this system to be abandoned, the European Parliament asked the Commission to review such Directive, with the Commission deciding to take feedback from citizens and other organizations.

The Commission summarises the pros and cons in a series of categories, such as:

  • Internal market: different hours for each country will greatly affect the single market due to inconveniences in transport, communications and travel, and lower productivity inside of the EU for goods and services.
  • Energy: originally, the idea was saving energy, although this was always a disputed fact. According to the Commission, backed by research, if there really are savings, these are very minimal and depend on the geographical location.
  • Health: the hour changes supposedly generate positive health effects, although it may affect the human biorhythm in a negative way.
  • Road safety: there is not enough evidence backing whether changing the hour increases or decreases the number of accidents. In present times, road illumination is not an issue anymore.
  • Agriculture: due to the introduction of new techniques in agriculture, switching hours is no longer a concern, as animals are taken care of mostly by machines, such as milking or artificial lightning. But, the extra daylight-hour during summer can be used to work longer outdoors, such as for harvesting.

The European Parliament has already specified that, whatever the outcome is, the EU must maintain “a unified EU time regime” to avoid issues inside the internal single market. Therefore, only two outcomes are possible:

  • Keeping the current EU summertime arrangements, as specified in the Directive 2000/84/EC, with therefore no changes to the current system, or
  • Discontinue the two-annual hour-changes for all EU member states and not allow for periodic hour switches, meaning each member state will have to stick to permanent summer or wintertime (or a different time).

As always, it is possible to read the documentation on the European Commission’s website, here.

The survey is available here, until the 16th of August. The Commission specifies opinions can be send in all official EU languages, except Irish, but do ask to try and use English if possible. Documentation backing the claims can also be uploaded.