EU ministers: More time needed on daylight savings reform

Brussels   – The European Union is unlikely to be able to scrap the twice-yearly changing of the clocks next year because it needs more time to resolve some internal reservations, Austria’s Transport Minister Norbert Hofer said Monday.

Hofer was hosting an informal meeting of his counterparts from across the bloc in Graz. They were discussing a European Commission proposal to abolish in 2019 the switching to daylight saving time between spring and autumn.

Member States need more time

For such a change to be enacted, EU member states and the European Parliament would have to approve any final reform. Member states would then decide for themselves whether they want to convert to daylight savings time or standard time year-round.

Other ministers also saw the need for a longer timeline, as did EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc.
“Member states need more time to come to a final decision,” she said, adding that the ministers would try to reach an agreement on a timetable by December.
Hofer, hosting the talks on behalf of Austria’s current EU presidency, said it would be important to avoid a “patchwork” of differing practices within the EU.

“It’s necessary to find a compromise,” Hofer told reporters.
According to Hofer, two or three member countries do not want to introduce the changes in 2019 because of technical preparations in air traffic and other areas that may take 18 months.

Items of guarantees

But both Hofer and Bulc pointed to the existing arrangement of three time zones across the European Union as a possible guide for a harmonized approach.
In addition to a longer timeline, member states might also consider appointing a special coordinator for this transition as well as a “safeguard clause” in case one or more countries need to work out unexpected problems, Hofer said.

The commission recently sponsored an EU-wide online poll that found 84 per cent of the 4.6 million participants in favour of abolishing the twice-yearly clock change.

Although it was a record number for an EU poll, it still represented less than 1 per cent of the bloc’s population.
The practice of standardizing daylight savings across the EU goes back to the 1980s, although many countries tried variations going back to World War I.

Proponents have cited energy savings, enhanced road safety, and other advantages from having more light during the day.
As the European Commission noted when it released its poll, however, the scientific evidence for these effects might not be that robust.