The end of the time change is a long time coming

Summer and winter time

Brussels (dpa) – The groundhog greets every six months: In the night to Sunday, the time is set back an hour – then winter time applies again.

On Sunday the sun sets in western Germany around 5.10 p.m., in the east even a good half an hour earlier. The ritual in the European Union should actually be history. But a quick end is not in sight.

So why does the time change still exist? A spokesman for the EU Commission recently put it this way: “This question about the seasonal time change is also a seasonal question that we receive twice a year before the time change.” As six months before, he could only repeat what he repeated six months ago: “The ball is now in the field of the member states.”

Survey of the citizens

In 2018, the EU Commission asked citizens about the topic. In the non-representative consultation, 84 percent were in favor of an end to the change between summer and winter time. Approval was particularly high in Germany. In the same year, the former commission head Jean-Claude Juncker announced an end to the time change on German breakfast television: “People want this, we do it,” he said. The EU Parliament then approved the EU Commission’s subsequent proposal in March 2019 and spoke out in favor of abolishing the time change in 2021. But they still exist.

Because there is a problem with the EU countries: They would have to clarify whether they want permanent summer or winter time. So far, however, the governments in the Council of the EU have not found a common position. And apparently no longer looking for them: Slovenia currently holds the presidency of the EU states, a spokeswoman said there was “nothing new” about the time change. There had been no debate on this under the Slovenian Council Presidency since July.

The CSU MEP Markus Ferber criticizes the fact that the EU countries did not make serious efforts to advance the project. “The discussion among the member states has not even started.” Most recently, Lithuania’s transport minister, Marius Skuodis, also called for a solution.

When asked whether the EU Commission would propose the plan of its former boss again, a spokesman emphasized that it was important to listen to the opinion of the population. Even if – as in this case – the problems are not always easy to solve. “The time actually goes by very slowly when it comes to the time change,” said the spokesman.

One problem is, among other things, that there is a risk of a patchwork quilt: If the countries do not agree on summer or winter time, it could come to that. If this does not succeed, there could be problems with timetables and in other areas. In addition, the effects for EU countries on the edges of the Central European time zone are not positive: If the permanent summer time were to come, it would mean darkness for Spain in winter until shortly before 10 a.m. If everyone agrees on winter time, it would be light in Warsaw by 3:00 a.m. in summer. The time change twice a year dampens these extremes.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 211028-99-765631 / 3