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Summertime: changing of the clocks

Summer time. Daylight saving time. Spring forward alarm clock vector icon II.
© Albachiaraa / Fotolia

Citizens recurrently turn to the European Parliament with comments on the changing of the clocks. Some citizens are in favour of the summer-time and winter-time arrangements; others call on the Parliament to abolish them.

Since the 1980s, several directives, harmonising the varying summer-time arrangements in the Member States step by step, have been adopted at EU level. The main idea is to provide stable, long-term planning which is important for the proper functioning of the internal market.

Current EU legislation

The current EU legislation in place is Directive 2000//84/EC on summer-time arrangements, which defines the summer-time period as ‘the period of the year during which clocks are put forward by 60 minutes compared with the rest of the year’ as well as its beginning ‘on the last Sunday in March’ and its end ‘on the last Sunday in October’. The directive states that a common date and time for the beginning and end of the summer-time period ‘is important for the functioning of the internal market’.

European Parliament debates

The latest European Parliament debate on the current summer-time arrangements was held in plenary on 8 February 2018. The plenary debate, with Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, followed previous debates in 2015 and 2016. It was dedicated to the impact of the biannual time change, and whether it should be abolished.

The Commissioner pointed out that based on all the available evidence it ‘is conclusive only on one point – that letting Member States free to apply uncoordinated time changes would be detrimental for the internal market’. and added that ‘conversely, the findings are inconclusive on human health’. The video and the verbatim report of the debate are published on the EP website.

Resolution of 8 February 2018 on time change arrangements

Following the debate of 8 February, a resolution on time change arrangements was adopted by 384 votes to 153 with 12 abstentions.

The resolution considers inter alia that ‘numerous scientific studies, including the European Parliamentary Research Service study of October 2017 on EU summer-time arrangements under Directive 2000/84/EC, have failed to come to a conclusive outcome, but have instead indicated the existence of negative effects on human health’.

Therefore, the Parliament calls on the Commission ‘to conduct a thorough assessment of Directive 2000/84/EC and, if necessary, come up with a proposal for its revision’. More information can be found in the press release ‘Parliament calls for thorough assessment of bi-annual time change‘.

Parliamentary questions and petitions

The summer-time arrangements have also been the subject of a number of parliamentary questions and petitions, which can be consulted in the Public Register of Documents.

Further information

The EPRS study ‘EU summer-time arrangements under Directive 2000/84/EC‘ published in October 2017, makes an ex-post impact assessment of the summertime arrangements, and points out that summertime benefits the internal market (notably the transport sector) and outdoor leisure activities, yet health research associates the arrangements with some disruption to the human biorhythm. The European Commission website on Mobility and Transport provides further information on the issue.

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