EU countries divided over ending seasonal clock changes

Most EU countries favour ending the system of twice-yearly clock changes, three are against while five have not yet taken a stance, it emerged after a meeting of EU transport ministers.

Those opposed are Portugal, Greece and the UK (which by October 2019, the proposed end of the system, would no longer be a member of the EU), while the countries yet to take a stance are Cyprus, the Netherlands, Ireland, France and Denmark.

On September 12, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, confirming that the Commission would comply with the findings of an EU-wide survey, said that it was proposing scrapping the time changes that have been happening every year in March and October.

Under the Commission’s proposal, each EU country would notify by April 2019 whether it intends to apply permanent summer or wintertime.

The proposal is that the last mandatory change to summertime would take place on March 31 2019. After that, the EU member states wishing to permanently switch back to wintertime would still be able to make one last seasonal clock change on October 27 2019, would no longer be possible.

A statement by the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU said that European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc and Austrian Federal Minister Norbert Hofer viewed the October 29 2018 first discussion of the issue by EU transport ministers as “a success”.

It said that Bulc and Hofer were “confident that a common position on the way forward can be found as early as December, when the EU Council meeting of transport ministers will take place”.

“There was general consensus that the end of seasonal clock changes may only be implemented when the next steps are known and an impact assessment is available.

“Most importantly, it must not entail any disadvantages for the single market and economy,” the statement said.

The ministers called on the European Commission to make sure of this.

They emphasised that it will be imperative to find a solution that does not result in a “patchwork” of European times zones. This can only be guaranteed by an appropriate timeline.

“The decision on which time to use in each country in the future will remain within the competence of individual states. So as not to rush this important decision, studies and surveys are needed, which will also take time. And there is no doubt that we are prepared to give the EU countries this time,” Bulc said.

Hofer proposed three ways to resolve the current problems: firstly, more time for the adjustment, that is to say, the timeline should be extended until 2021. Secondly, the Commission should nominate a coordinator who will be in charge of harmonisation and co-ordination. “And last, but not least, a safeguard clause should allay any remaining concerns: should unforeseen problems arise, the European Commission will have to present a new directive.”

“I am convinced that such a safeguard clause will be the key to an even broader majority. It is the safety net that is needed to be able to make the leap,” Hofer said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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