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EU seeks citizens’ views on summertime

July 5, 2018 at 5:23pm
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The European Commission is asking citizens and stakeholders to weigh in on the debate whether clocks should change twice a year.

It said that in response to requests from citizens, the European Parliament and from certain EU Member States,  it had decided to investigate the functioning of the current EU daylight saving rules and to assess whether or not they should be changed.

To this end, it has launched a public consultation on the clock changes that occur twice a year, including through a questionnaire posted on its website.

The Commission said it was interested in gathering the views of European citizens, stakeholders and Member States on the current arrangements and on any potential change.

It invited European citizens and stakeholders to share their views on the matter by filling-in an on line questionnaire (available in all EU languages) by 16 August.

Current summertime arrangements in the EU require that clocks are changed twice a year in order to cater for the changing patterns of daylight and to take advantage of the available daylight in a given period.

Mostg EU Member States have a long tradition of summertime arrangements, most of which date back as far as the First and Second World Wars or to the oil crisis in the 1970s.

At the time, summertime arrangements were mainly designed to save energy.  Other motivations include road safety, increasing leisure opportunities stemming from longer daylight during evenings or simply to align national practices to those of neighbours or main trading partners.

Summertime arrangements at EU level exist since the 1980s and are currently governed by  Directive 200/84/EC. which requires each Member States to switch to summertime on the last Sunday of March and to switch back to wintertime on the last Sunday of October.

The aim was to unify existing national summertime schedules that were diverging, thereby ensuring a harmonised approach to the time switch within the single market.

The European Commission said a number of studies have been carried out over the years to assess EU summertime arrangements. Available evidence indicates the following:

  • Internal market: At this juncture, evidence is only conclusive on one point: that allowing uncoordinated time changes between Member States would be detrimental to the internal market due to higher costs to cross-border trade, inconveniences in transport, communications and travel, and lower productivity in the internal market for goods and services.
  • Energy: Despite having been one of the main drivers of the current arrangements, research indicates that the overall energy savings effect of summertime is marginal.
  • Health: Summertime arrangements are estimated to generate positive effects linked to more outdoor leisure activities. On the other hand, chronobiologic research findings suggest that the effect on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought. The evidence on overall health impacts (i.e. the balance of the assumed positive versus negative effects) remains inconclusive.
  • Road safety: Evidence remains inconclusive with regard to the relationship between summertime arrangements and road traffic accidents. In principle, sleep deprivation from advancing the clock in spring could increase the risk of accidents. At the same time, extended daylight hours during summer evenings are considered to have a positive effect on road safety. However, it is generally difficult to attribute directly the effect of summertime arrangements on accident rates compared to other factors.
  • Agriculture: Previous concerns regarding disrupted biorhythm of animals and changing milking schedules due to the time switch appear to have largely disappeared due to the deployment of new equipment, artificial lighting and automated technologies. An extra daylight-hour during summer can also be an advantage allowing extended working hours for outdoor activities, such as working in fields and harvesting.

Some Member States have recently addressed the summertime issue in letters to the Commission. More specifically, Finland has asked that the bi-annual time switch be abandoned and Lithuania has called for a review of the current system in order to take into account regional and geographical differences.

For its part,  the European Parliament adopted a resolution in February 2018, asking the Commission to conduct a thorough assessment of the Directive and, if necessary, come up with a proposal for its revision.