Time change in Europe: The clock continues to be rotated

Status: 10/30/2021 12:06 p.m.

On Sunday night the clock is turned back one hour. Because in the debate about the time change nothing is moving in the EU. This year should actually end.

By Jakob Mayr, ARD-Studio Brussels

Stefan de Keersmaecker is spokesman for the EU Commission in Brussels and usually comes across in a good mood even when it comes to tricky questions. The question about the half-yearly clock change is less tricky than annoying because it keeps coming back at regular intervals. De Keersmacker’s humorous answer:

I repeat what I replied to it six months ago, and that was what I said six months earlier – namely: the Commission proposed in September 2018 that the clock change be ended. The European Parliament confirmed this in 2019. Now the ball is in the field of the member states.

Jakob Mayr
ARD studio Brussels

Did Juncker promise too much?

The then President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, seemed quite determined when he stated briefly in the late summer of 2018: “The people want this, we do it.” Juncker relied on the results of an online survey from August of the same year. It was not representative: around one percent of the EU population took part, around 4.6 million people, most of the answers came from Germany. The result was clear: 84 percent wanted to abolish the time change.

Nevertheless, the clock continues to be rotated. Did the then head of the Commission promise too much? No, says the responsible SPD MEP Ismail Ertug: “If there is a wish of the citizens, then the European level has to correspond to it. And from that point of view there was nothing wrong, he didn’t mouth it too much. But that The EU’s biggest problem is its member states, and that’s how I mean it. “

Because, according to the will of the European Parliament, the current changeover should really be the last. In any case, the MPs decided that with an overwhelming majority in March 2019. Now the CDU MEP Peter Liese is advising frustrated citizens to write to the federal government: “Because the problem does not lie in the European Parliament, but with the national governments.”

Light too early or too late

But they do not agree: should nothing change? That is what Greece and Cyprus want. Or should summer time or normal time apply to everyone permanently, i.e. the time that was previously in winter? Depending on the situation, states on the edges of the Central European time zone would only see light in the morning in winter, while others would see light shortly after midnight in summer.

The alternative: each country turns the clock independently. The result would be a patchwork of different time arrangements with major problems for cross-border commuters, rail and air traffic. Nobody wants that either.

The social democrat Ertug states: “There are countries that have absolutely no interest in changing this because it works quite well there. But there are also countries in the north, for example, that say: We need winter time so that it can be winter gets light earlier. “

Incidentally, the time zones in the EU are not affected: Central European time applies to Germany and most of the other member states. Ireland and Portugal are an hour ahead, Finland and countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe an hour behind.

Missing goals, new problems

The EU countries have been coordinating the time change for 25 years. In Germany, summer time was introduced in 1980 with the aim of saving energy. That was not achieved, and some complain of health problems due to the recurring changeover.

According to the CDU politician and doctor Peter Liese, this should not be dramatized: “Not every perceived problem is a seriously medical one. But there are people who sleep poorly after the time change and this has been proven to lead to an increase in cardiovascular diseases.”

It starts with the little one

Nevertheless, there is no end in sight: the EU Commission and member states cannot even agree on who will carry out an impact assessment. Berlin and other governments call on Brussels to do so. There it is said that it is a matter for the member states, they know their national characteristics better after all.

“When and how the issue will be dealt with in the Council is currently open,” says the Federal Ministry of Economics. Despite all the appeals from Parliament and the Commission, Europe’s citizens will continue to turn the clock every six months.


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