Brought forward by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in February, time change is now becoming a central topic on the European agenda.
The EU on track to abolish bi-annual clock change
Last summer, the European Commission conducted a continent-wide consultation on the issue and received over 4.6 million responses – a new record for a Commission survey (with strongest participation recorded in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg). The answer is clear: 84% of respondents are in favour of ending the bi-annual clock change, and over three-quarters of them described this practice as a “negative” or “very negative” experience, citing health issues, increase in road accidents and lack of energy savings as the main reasons. Greece and Cyprus were the only EU countries where the experience is mainly seen as positive and where a majority of respondents are favour of keeping the bi-annual change.
“We will now act accordingly and prepare a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and Council, who will then decide together”, EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said. The time change could be abolished as early as next year, although some countries, including Austria, are calling to delay the move until 2021 to have the time to conduct more in-depth research.
Many European countries have a very old tradition of clock change arrangements, dating back as far as the First World War for some, including Germany who was the first to introduce summer-time change. Since the 1980’s, the European Union has adopted legislation to coordinate clock change and end diverging national schedules. Since 1996, all Europeans have brought their clock forward by one hour on last Sunday of March and one hour backward on last Sunday of October. Several European countries have been calling to abolish time change for a couple of years.
Where does Central Europe stand on the issue?
Unsurprisingly, Europe’s northern and eastern-most regions, including Central European countries, are the most in favour of abolishing the practice. With as little as 5% of respondents wishing to keep things as they are, Poland and Finland top the charts. Hungary (90% for the abolishment), the Czech Republic (83%) and Slovakia (80%) are also vigorously for abolishing the measure.
So which time should they keep? At the EU level, 56% of respondents are in favour of keeping the summer time, while slightly more than a third of them want to preserve winter time. Apart from the Czech Republic, where a majority of people appear in favour of keeping the winter time, other Central Europeans – 72% of Poles, 65% of Hungarians and 57% of Slovaks – would rather permanently set their watch on summer time.