EU to recommend that member states abolish daylight saving time

By Sam Jones in Madrid and agencies

The European commission will recommend that EU member states abandon the practice of changing the clocks in spring and autumn in favour of staying on summer time throughout the year.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission’s president, said that a recent consultation had shown that more than 80% of EU citizens were in favour of the move.

“We carried out a survey, millions responded and believe that in future, summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen,” he told the German broadcaster ZDF, adding that the commission was due to make a decision later on Friday.

“I will recommend to the commission that, if you ask the citizens, then you have to do what the citizens say,” said Juncker. “We will decide on this today, and then it will be the turn of the member states and the European parliament.”

Any change would still need approval from national governments and the European parliament to become law.

Under current EU legislation citizens in all 28 EU countries have been required to move their clocks an hour forward on the last Sunday in March and switch back to winter time on the final Sunday in October.

The online poll suggested that more than 80% of Europeans were against the annual ritual of changing the clocks, a practice used across most of Europe and North America.

Proponents of daylight saving have said the longer evening daylight hours in the summer help save energy and bolster productivity.

But opponents have argued that some people cannot easily adapt to the change and feel it has a short-term negative impact on their health.

Finland, which has the most northerly EU national capital, has called for the bloc to drop the biannual switch, while Lithuania has urged a review of the current system to take into account regional and geographical differences.

“The commission regularly receives feedback from citizens on the summertime issue, which often refer to what they perceive as negative health impacts of the disruptive time change relating to sleep deprivation and other kinds of negative consequences,” the commission said.

“However, some also ask that the current system be maintained, as they believe it has positive effects.”

The commission said in the consultation it had two choices: to keep the current EU summertime arrangements, or to drop the biannual changes and allow individual member states to decide whether they wanted to adopt permanent summer or winter time, or a different time.

Outside the EU, a handful of European countries have stopped switching between summer and winter time, including Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Iceland.

Issues of clocks, hours and working days are much discussed in Spain, which has been stranded in the wrong time zone for decades. In 2013, a parliamentary commission recommended that Spain shift its clocks back one hour.

Although the country used to be on the same time as the UK and Portugal, it has run an hour ahead since 1942, when General Francisco Franco moved it forward in solidarity with Hitler’s Germany. The commission also suggested that the long Spanish working day – including a two- or three-hour lunch break – be altered to resemble the 9am to 5pm model.