Citizens recurrently turn to the Parliament with comments on the switch between summer and winter time. Some citizens are in favour of the summertime arrangements; others call on the Parliament to help to abolish the practice.
Twice a year the clocks in all EU Member States are switched forward by one hour from winter to summertime (on the last Sunday in March) and back by one hour from summer to wintertime (on the last Sunday in October).
This is an updated version of the EP answers ‘Changing the clocks from summertime to wintertime‘, published on 21 October 2015.
Harmonising summertime arrangements
Wintertime is standard time. It is during the summer that the time in the EU is advanced by 60 minutes. The decision on standard time falls within the competence of Member States. Most Member States had introduced summertime in the 1970s, although some had begun to change the time much earlier, for varying lengths of time. Since the 1980s the EU legislator, i.e. the European Parliament and the Council, has adopted several directives harmonising the various summertime arrangements, to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. The main idea is to provide stable, long-term planning, which is important for the certain economic sectors, especially 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 arrangements in Europe. The study, entitled ‘The application of summertime in Europe‘, concludes that if summertime was not harmonised in the Union, substantial inconvenience and nuisance would ensue 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 an 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. In its answers, for example to Question E-004764-15 on the summertime issue, the Commission refers to the study on harmonisation, and concludes that, at this stage, it does not intend to propose the revision or repeal of Directive 2000/84/EC.
In addition, three parliamentary committees held a joint public hearing entitled ‘Time to Revisit Summer Time?‘ on 24 March 2015. Since the hearing, new parliamentary questions were submitted, pointing to expert findings that the current summertime arrangements have more negative than positive effects.
The public hearing on summertime changes in Europe and the subsequent Oral Question O-000111/2015, addressed to the Commission, were also the subject of a plenary debate on 29 October 2015 with Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport.
During the debate, the Commissioner stated that different studies on the subject matter examined by the Commission present mixed results and no conclusive argument was to be gained from them regarding potential impacts on health, energy savings or other areas. Furthermore the Member States consulted by the Commissioner were divided on this subject. Commissioner Bulc stated: ‘So, at this stage, the Commission is not considering changes to the relevant directive but, should new evidence emerge and a more systemic approach be put forward, we would be willing to reconsider that position’.
For many years, summertime arrangements in the EU have also been the subject of petitions submitted by citizens to the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, for example Petition 1477/2012. Information on petitions, and procedures for submitting a petition to the European Parliament, are available on the Parliament’s Petitions website.
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