Ask EP By / October 22, 2020

What measures has the European Union taken on seasonal clock changes?

The European Union (EU) first unified summer-time arrangements in 1980, to ensure a harmonised approach to time switching within the single market.

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clock changing from summer to winter time. 3d rendering
© Adobe Stock

The European Union (EU) first unified summer-time arrangements in 1980, to ensure a harmonised approach to time switching within the single market. Until then, national summer-time practices and schedules were different, with obvious consequences for time differences between neighbouring countries. A 2000 EU Directive on summer-time arrangements now governs seasonal clock changes. It 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’ and stipulates that it begins ‘on the last Sunday in March’ and ends ‘on the last Sunday in October’. The directive states that coordinated summer-time arrangements are ‘important for the functioning of the internal market’.

Against the background of a number of petitions, citizens’ initiatives and parliamentary questions, the European Parliament called on the European Commission, in a February 2018 resolution, to conduct a thorough assessment of the summer-time arrangements provided in the 2000 Directive and, if necessary, to come up with a proposal for its revision.

European Commission proposal to end seasonal clock changes

On that basis, the Commission conducted a public consultation on the summer-time arrangements. In September 2018, the Commission put forward a new legislative proposal, where it suggests ending the practice of seasonal clock changes.

This proposal for a directive is put forward for adoption under the ordinary legislative procedure, in which the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, which represents the EU Member States, take decisions on an equal footing. Once both institutions have adopted their respective positions on the proposal, they can enter into negotiation on the proposed legislation. Once these negotiations have been concluded, both the Parliament and the Council need to endorse the agreed deal for it to become law.

European Parliament position in favour of ending seasonal clock changes

In its position on the proposal adopted in March 2019, the European Parliament endorsed the Commission suggestion to discontinue seasonal changes of time, leaving EU countries free to decide whether they want to introduce summer-time or winter-time on a permanent basis. To ensure that the application of summer-time by some EU countries and winter-time by others does not disrupt the functioning of the internal market, however, Parliament called on EU countries and the Commission to coordinate decision-making.

The adopted text sets out Parliament’s position in the negotiations on the proposal with the Council.

Blockage in the Council of the European Union

EU countries discussed the Commission’s proposal at an informal meeting of transport ministers in October 2018, in which a majority of ministers expressed their support for ending seasonal clock changes. However, at the following meeting, in December 2018, ministers indicated that EU countries needed more time for further consultations. In December 2019, the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the EU updated ministers on the status of the European Commission’s proposal. The Council has still to agree its position and EU countries are carrying out consultations to finalise their positions.

Further information

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