On Sunday 28th of October 2018, maybe for the last time, European citizens will turn to winter time. If the seasonal clock change is abolished in the European Union, what will be the conséquences?
Turning the hands of a watch twice a year: this gesture could soon belong to the past. After an online public consultation held during the summer, it appeared that 84% of the European citizens who took part in the vote wanted to end with the seasonal clock change. Following the willingness of the citizens, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the reform would be presented to the Parliament and the Council before the end of the year.
The seasonal clock change was adopted by EU member states during the 1970s and 1980s in order to make energy savings after the 1973 and 1979 oil crisis. In 2001, an EU Directive unified the changes: all member states switch to summer time on the first Sunday of April and return to winter time on the last Sunday of October.
Nowadays, the measure is criticised for being useless, due to new technologies and changes in the way of living. Concerns have also been raised about the clock change being harmful for the biological rhythm, especially for children and elderly people.
“Experts generally agree on the fact that it’s impossible for the biological clock to be disturbed with a one-hour change,” explains French chrono-biologist Yvan Touitou. “Our experimental model is the jet-lag. And we generally agree that, to have visible effects on health and behaviour, the change needs to be at least of three hours.”
If the reform is adopted by the EU institutions (the European Parliament and the European Council), each member state will be free to decide whether to keep the summer or the winter time. “Summer time would be the best option,” underlines Touitou. “It’s the one that grants more sunlight in the evening. People will stay outside longer and exercise more if there is more light.”
A clock patchwork
With each country being allowed to choose its own time zone, the EU could soon become a patchwork of time zones. Portugal and Poland have already said that they want to follow the summer time, while Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands are more likely to keep the winter time. This will complicate trade and exchanges between EU member states belonging to different time zones.
But the most important effects would affect the border workers (around 1.4 million people in 2016). “For them, it is obviously less easy because they have to deal with the clock change every day, and not just twice a year. But once again, the human body is able to adapt easily,” Touitou said.
According to Jordy Manning, a 21-year-old Australian girl, this daily clock change mainly affects social life. For almost two years, she was living in New South Wales and studying and later working in Queensland. A difference in states that also resulted a difference in time zones: New South Wales is one hour ahead Queensland. A change that occurs only six months a year, since News South Wales applies seasonal clock change, while Queensland does not.
By crossing the border, Jordy was also travelling to the past or to the future. A rhythm that needed some organization: “I actually set all my technology to Queensland time and began to function off that time zone. I therefore had to be on a different schedule to my family. I rarely got to see them based on this time difference. They were always eating meals earlier than me and in bed by the time I got home and left for work before I got up.”
If the reform is adopted by the Parliament and the Council, member states who decide to keep the summer time would change for the last time in April 2019. Others would have to change again in October 2019 to definitely keep the winter time. For now, all EU citizens will have to adjust their watches to winter time on the 28th of October.