Citizens recurrently turn to the Parliament with comments on the changing of the clocks. Some citizens are in favour of the summertime arrangement; others call on the Parliament to abolish summertime arrangements.
On Sunday 25 October 2015 at 3 a.m., clocks in the EU were turned back one hour to 2 a.m. local standard time. In fact, twice a year the clocks in all EU Member States are switched from winter to summertime (on the last Sunday in March) and back from summer to wintertime (on the last Sunday in October).
Harmonising varying summertime arrangements
The standard time is wintertime and during the summer the time is put forward 60 minutes. The decision on the standard 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 European Parliament and the Council, have adopted several directives harmonising step by step the varying summertime arrangements, to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. The main idea was to provide a stable, long-term planning which is important for the proper functioning of certain economic sectors, especially as regards transport.
EU legislation and its implications
The current reference text in EU legislation with regard to summertime 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.
In 2014, the Commission commissioned another study on the harmonisation of summertime in Europe. The study, entitled ‘The application of summertime in Europe‘, concludes that if summertime was not harmonised in the Union, it would entail substantial inconvenience and disturbance for citizens and businesses alike. The study also includes scenarios of abolishing summertime in one or more Member States and looks at the effects of this asynchronous application of summertime in the EU.
Public hearing and parliamentary questions
In view of the concerns expressed by citizens regarding the summertime arrangements, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have submitted various parliamentary questions asking whether the Commission is planning to propose to repeal Directive 2000/84/EC on summertime arrangements.
Furthermore, three parliamentary committees held a joint public hearing entitled ‘Time to Revisit Summer Time?‘ on 24 March 2015. Since the hearing, new parliamentary questions have been submitted, pointing to experts’ findings that the current summertime arrangements have more negative than positive effects.
In its answers, for example to question E-004764-15 on the problem of summertime, the Commission refers to the abovementioned study and concludes that, at this stage, it has no intention to revise or repeal Directive 2000/84/EC.
The answer to oral question O-000111/2015 on the hearing on summertime changes in Europe, addressed to the Commission on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Committee on Transport and Tourism, has not yet been published. As soon as an answer is available, an ‘Answer(s)’ tab will appear next to the title of the question.
For years, the summertime arrangements have also been subject of petitions that citizens have submitted to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions (PETI). With regard to Petition 1477/2012, the European Commission explained in its reply that ‘an application of summertime throughout the year would in reality be no longer a harmonised “summertime” regime. It would abolish summertime and impose on Member States to change their standard time’. The decision on the standard time, however, 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.
In 2014, the Committee on Petitions received several more petitions on the abolition of summer/wintertime in the EU, as stated in the minutes of the Petitions committee meeting of 14 July 2015 (page 4).
Information on petitions and procedures for submitting a petition to the European Parliament are available on the Parliament’s Petitions website .
The European Parliament will continue to follow the latest developments in this area.
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