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Europeans turn back clocks for daylight saving, perhaps for last time

  • October 25, 2020

Germans got an extra hour of sleep on Sunday as clocks switched back an hour at 3 a.m., in a decadeslong tradition aimed at gaining an extra hour of sunlight in the morning.

Germany introduced the switch between summer and winter time in 1980, following the global oil crisis. The idea was that it would save energy by maximizing sunlight hours, though its impact has been debatable. Nevertheless, Germans have been changing their clocks in October and March ever since.

Read more: Opinion: A timeless Europe

EU to abolish practice next year?

The practice, which is currently regulated across the European Union, has grown increasingly unpopular over the years. Critics say switching clocks disrupts biorhythms in humans and livestock alike, leading to health problems.

In 2018, an EU poll indicated overwhelming support for ending daylight saving time altogether. A year later, the European Parliament voted to abolish it by 2021.

The decision left it up to EU member states to decide whether to stick to the twice-yearly change, but there is no uniform position on whether the bloc should adopt summer or winter time. With 2021 just around the corner, no concrete plans on how to implement the EU’s decision have been made since last year’s vote.

Will Sunday be the last time European turn back the clocks? Only time will tell.

Read more:Berlin and Beyond: Time for eternal winter 

  • Infografik Karte für Bildergalerie Sommerzeit weltweit 2019 EN

    Daylight saving time in the EU: What’s it all about?

    DST in the EU

    Spring forward, fall back. Sound familiar? The catchphrase describes the practice of daylight saving time (DST), or moving the clock forward by one hour in summer to make evening daylight last longer. The practice is common in North America and Europe, with people changing their clocks at the start of spring and then reverting them back in the middle of fall.

  • The shadow of a butterfly and a plant are silhouetted against the setting sun (picture-alliance/Arco Images GmbH/F. Rauschenbach)

    Daylight saving time in the EU: What’s it all about?

    Thanks to a love of insects

    While some may have heard that Benjamin Franklin, an 18th-century founding father of the United States, invented DST, credit actually goes to New Zealand entomologist George Hudson. He valued after-work hours of sun to collect insects, which led him in 1895 to propose shifting clocks two hours forward in summer and two hours back in winter. His idea was not very popular.

  • German troops March into Ukraine (picture-alliance/RIA Nowosti)

    Daylight saving time in the EU: What’s it all about?

    Saving energy in WWI

    Hudson’s idea took some time to catch on — and when it did, it was in a totally different part of the world. In 1916, the German and Austrian Empires ordered that all clocks be moved forward by one hour on April 30 in order to try to save fuel for the war effort by minimizing the need for artificial lighting. The UK, France and the US soon followed, but countries dropped the shift after WWI ended.

  • A pocket watch swings back and forth (Colourbox)

    Daylight saving time in the EU: What’s it all about?

    EU clock coordination begins

    DST was reinstituted in much of Europe during WWII, including in Germany under Adolf Hitler. National practices varied greatly through the 1970s energy crisis. In 1980, the EU’s forerunner began to coordinate divergent clock changes. Since 2001, EU states have been obliged to switch to summer time on the last Sunday in March and back to standard time, or winter time, on the last Sunday in October.

  • Jean-Claude Juncker looks at his watch (picture-alliance/dpa/V. Mayo)

    Daylight saving time in the EU: What’s it all about?

    EU calls for ending DST

    In 2018, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged to do away with the bloc’s seasonal time changes in 2019. Member states could choose to keep summer or winter time. His cited an online EU survey in which 84 percent of respondents voted to end clock changes. However, only 4.6 million people voted in the poll and nearly three-quarters of all votes were from Germany.

  • A man reaches up to hang a clock on the wall as different clocks next to it show different times (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Barlow)

    Daylight saving time in the EU: What’s it all about?

    EU time patchwork ahead?

    Now EU countries are at odds over what to do. France’s parliament held its own online vote over sticking with summer or winter time. Other countries have asked to delay dropping DST until 2021, while Greece and Portugal want to keep the hourly seasonal swap. What many hope to avoid is a new type of time change — having to adjust the clocks regularly when crossing national borders within the EU.

    Author: Cristina Burack

dr/sms (KNA, dpa, AFP)

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