The decision on the standard time (“normal time” or “winter time”) falls within the competence of Member States. Most Member States introduced summer time in the 1970s, although some had started applying it much earlier for varying lengths of time. Since the 1980s the EU legislator, i.e. the Member States and the European Parliament, have adopted several directives harmonising step by step the varying summer-time arrangements. The main idea was to provide a stable, long-term planning which is important for the proper functioning of certain economic sectors requires, especially as regards transport.
The current reference text in EU legislation with regard to summer-time arrangements for all Member States is Directive 2000/84/EC. In 2007, the European Commission published a report on the impact of this directive, providing a chronology of the European legislation and its implications for different sectors of activity.
Summer-time arrangements are subject of debates and several petitions have been introduced on this issue. Regarding Petition 1477/2012, the European Commission explained in its reply that “an application of summer time throughout the year would in reality be no longer a harmonised ‘summer time’ regime. It would abolish summer time and impose on MS to change their standard time”. And this decision on the standard time falls within the competence of Member States – and not that of the EU.
The purpose of EU rules has therefore not been to harmonise the time regime in the EU, the Commission says, but to address the problems, notably for the transport sector, which arise from an uncoordinated application of clock-changes in the course of the year.
Another petition on this subject, Petition 0859/2013, is requesting to extend the current summer-time period in order to bring it into line with summer-time arrangements in the United States and Canada.
Summer-time arrangements are also recurrent subjects of Parliamentary questions, as some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have requested an explanation from the Commission on the justification for the twice-yearly time change.
One MEP asked if the Commission would support any proposals to extend British Summer Time within the European Union, “to align it to the dates which are currently implemented in the USA, i.e. from the first weekend in March to the first weekend in November.”
Another MEP asked whether the Commission plans to carry out an impact assessment on the introduction of summer time, and if it was considering the health consequences for people in the EU.
The Commission replied that it believes that the summer-time arrangements as established by the directive remain suitable and it “does not currently plan any revision”.