In 2018, then President of the European Commission and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker proposed to abolish the seasonal time change in the EU. The EU Parliament backed the move in March 2019, and the plan should have been implemented in 2021. Why is it still not in effect?

On Sunday morning, clocks jumped from 2am straight to 3am – meaning that the residents of the Grand Duchy and the rest of Europe lost one hour of sleep.

Every year, the switch to summer time sparks discussions, since experts agree that winter time is our "natural" time and should not be tampered with.

In 2023, the debate is all the more topical in the context of the energy crisis. When it was introduced, summer time was supposed to be a way to save electricity during the warmer months of the year. In theory, it all makes sense: less lighting should equal reduced electricity consumption. However, whether the measure actually results in significant energy savings is highly disputed.

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In addition, the time change is not ideal from a health perspective either. Doctors have repeatedly confirmed that the switch disrupts our sleep rhythm. From a medical standpoint, it would be best not to change the time and stick to "regular time," i.e., winter time. That being said, polls consistently suggest that most people would prefer to remain in summer time indefinitely.

Summer time was first standardised in the EU in 1982.

A vote that led nowhere

In an EU-wide survey initiated by the European Commission in 2018, 80% of the 4.6 million participants spoke out in favour of ending the time change. That same year, then President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker presented a plan to abolish the time change across the EU, which was approved by the European Parliament in March 2019. However, while the plan was supposed to come into effect in 2021, the European Commission decided to let individual member states decide which time they would like to keep. Since then, the project has effectively been dead.

The problem: the different EU member states cannot agree on which time is supposed to apply in the future. A mishmash of time zones across the EU is not an option, if only because of international timetables in rail and air traffic.

Depending on their geographical location, different countries would benefit from different times. If the EU were to stick with winter time forever, the western countries would benefit the most from the sun rising earlier in the morning. But, in Eastern Europe, this would mean that the sun would always set earlier.

On another note, the following countries have already abolished the time change:

  • Egypt
  • Argentina
  • Belarus
  • Brazil
  • China
  • India
  • Iceland
  • Japan
  • Namibia
  • Russia
  • South Africa
  • Turkey

Social jet-lag

Surveys show time and time again that people suffer from a variety of health issues as a result of the time shift. An example of this is a recent survey by the German polling institute Forsa, which was published in Hamburg on Thursday. A total of 1,008 people participated in the survey between 22 and 24 February.

Half of all respondents (49%) said it takes them up to a week to adjust to the change. One in every four people even needs up to a month.

The most common symptoms include tiredness, feeling under the weather, sleeplessness, and difficulty focusing.

There are other repercussions too. Many people are late for work on the first Monday following a time change because they simply overslept. Some also struggle with depression, women significantly more so than men.

Despite the downsides, though, the time change persists. What do you make of summer time?