Brussels, Belgium – Brought forward by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in February, time change has become a central topic on the European agenda.
The EU moves to abolish bi-annual time change
Last summer, the European Commission conducted an EU-wide consultation on the issue, receiving over 4.6 million responses – a new record for a Commission survey (with the strongest participation rates recorded in Germany, Austria and Luxembourg).
The answer seems crystal-clear: 84% of EU respondents are in favour of ending the bi-annual clock change, with over three-quarters of them describing 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 bi-annual time change is predominantly seen as positive and where a majority of respondents are in favour of keeping the practice.
“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.
A century-old tradition in some European states
Although several European countries have been calling to abolish time change for a couple of years, many EU member states 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. And since the mid-1990’s, all Europeans have had to bring their clock forward by one hour on the last Sunday of March and one hour backward on the last Sunday of October.
Where do Central European countries stand on the issue?
Unsurprisingly, Europe’s northern and eastern-most regions, including Central European countries, report the highest levels of support for abolishing the bi-annual time change.
With as little as 5% of respondents wishing to keep things as they are, Poland and Finland top the charts. Hungary (90% in favour of abolishing clock change), the Czech Republic (83%) and Slovakia (80%) also vigorously support the EU Commission’s proposal.
Winter time or summer time?
But if time change is abolished, on which time will Europeans have to set their clocks and watches? That’s where things get tricky, and consensus breaks.
At the EU level, 56% of the population is in favour of keeping the summer time, while slightly more than a third of respondents say they prefer to preserve winter time. Apart from the Czech Republic (the most Western country of the former Eastern bloc), where a majority of people is 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.