The European Parliament is voting on a proposal to stop the obligatory one-hour clock change which extends daylight hours in summer EU-wide.
The proposal would give each member state a choice from 2021: either to keep the current summer time system or scrap the twice-yearly clock changes.
Ministers will also have a say on this.
Under an EU directive, all 28 states now switch to summer time on the last Sunday of March and back to winter time on the last Sunday of October.
The European Commission – in charge of drafting EU legislation – made the proposal last year, after a public consultation which showed 84% of respondents wanting to scrap the biannual clock changes. There were 4.6 million replies in that consultation, 70% of which were from Germans.
The proposal has been backed by the parliament’s transport committee, and now all MEPs are voting on it.
But MEPs and the Commission stress that states must co-ordinate their choices, to minimise the risk of economic disruption from a patchwork of different time systems.
Daylight saving time (DST) has been compulsory in the EU since 2001, aimed at making the EU internal market work more smoothly and reducing energy costs.
Fewer time differences, it was argued, would facilitate cross-border trade and travel in the EU, while the extra daylight hours in summer would reduce spending on artificial lighting.
But the energy savings from DST have proven to be quite marginal. And some of the EU’s major trading partners – among them China, Russia and Turkey – do not operate under DST.
The consultation and scientific studies suggested that the clock changes were having negative effects on people’s health.
The EU Commission says studies suggest “the effect on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought”.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “there is no applause when EU law dictates that Europeans have to change the clocks twice a year.
“Clock-changing must stop. Member states should themselves decide whether their citizens live in summer or winter time.”
Finland called for daylight saving to be abolished EU-wide, after a petition gathered more than 70,000 signatures from citizens calling for such a change.
Opposition to the clock changes tends to be greater in northern countries, where seasonal differences in daylight hours are greater than in the south.
In June, Finland has 18.5 hours of daylight, but in December only 5.5 hours. The corresponding figures for Greece are 14.5 hours and 9.3 hours. Yet both countries are in the same standard time zone – Eastern European Time (GMT+2).
During the winter, spring and autumn, when DST is not applied, there are three standard time zones: