Permanent summer time in Denmark? EU parliament votes to end changing of clocks

Lawmakers in the European parliament voted on Tuesday to end the traditional changing of the clocks in spring and autumn from 2021. That could mean permanent summer – or winter – time in Denmark.

Permanent summer time in Denmark? EU parliament votes to end changing of clocks
Photo: sinenkiy/Depositphotos

MEPs voted 410 to 192 in favour of ending the practice of changing the clocks forward and back in spring and autumn from 2021.

However, the parliament said it should be up to each individual member state to decide whether to stick to summer time or winter time in future.

According to the legislation passed by parliament, the EU member states that decide to stay on summer time will put their clocks forward for a final time in March 2021.

The countries that prefer to stay on winter time will put their clocks back for the final time in Autumn 2021.

The bill is now the official position of the EU parliament, but it will be up to the European Council to make a final decision on whether the clock changes can stop in future.

The council – which is made up by the leaders of each member state – will have to vote unanimously for the change, but may be swayed by the fact the move would be popular among Europeans.

In a Europe-wide survey last year, some 80 percent of Europeans voted in favour of stopping the clock changes, with most people appearing to prefer to stay on summer time rather than winter time.

“The changing of the clocks will be scrapped,” European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said last year, adding that the idea would be to keep the whole of Europe on “summer time” all year-round.

“The people want it, so we will do it,” Juncker added.

In Denmark, the government has not confirmed its position on the issue. But political opinion as to whether Denmark should choose permanent summer, or indeed winter time – or retain the clock-changing status quo – appears to be divided.

Margrete Auken, an MEP with the Socialist People’s Party, supported retaining split summer and winter times in Tuesday’s vote.

“The long, light summer evenings are great. They are good for outdoor life, for hygge and for outdoor theatre which takes place in the summer,” Auken told broadcaster DR.

Auken also stressed that energy savings, albeit small, were to be made by retaining winter time.

Summer time was originally introduced by Germany and Austria in 1916 in a bid to save energy and thereby oil by lengthening the evenings. Denmark introduced summer time the same year.

But the energy-saving argument for summer time no longer applies, according to MEP Anders Vistisen of the Danish People’s Party, who voted to end the changing of the clocks.

“The old energy-saving argument has disappeared. Meanwhile, there are problems in relation to animals and people when we change the time, so there is no reason to keep the arrangement,” Vistisen told DR.

READ ALSO: Warm temperatures, light evenings on way to Denmark

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EU aims to scrap turning the clocks back for winter

The President of the EU Commission has announced his plan to abolish the changing of the clocks after an online survey showed that Europeans are in favour of staying permanently on "summer time".

EU aims to scrap turning the clocks back for winter
The European Commission will recommend EU member states stay permanently on "summer time". Photo: AFP
The results are in and with 80 percent of Europeans for getting rid of the seasonal changing of the clocks, the EU wants to grant their wish. 
Six months after the European parliament approved ditching the practice that many find problematic, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has now backed the move.
Juncker said the commission would recommend “abolishing” the transition to winter time that takes place when the clocks go back by one hour each autumn, so in effect Europe would remain on “summer time”.
“The changing of the clocks will be scrapped,” Juncker told German news channel ZDF, adding that the idea would be to keep the whole of Europe on “summer time” all year-round.
“The people want it, so we will do it.” 
More than 80 percent of the Europeans who took part in the survey were in favour of ending the changing of the clocks, with the survey striking a particular chord with Germans who made up 3 million of the total 4.6 million people surveyed. 
“Millions of people have responded and are of the opinion that in the future it is summer time that should be in place all the time, and we will achieve that,” said the president of the Commission.
The practice sees Europeans put their clocks forward by an hour in spring, which is also known as daylight saving time, and go back by an hour in autumn. 
That change effectively makes the evenings longer in the summer and shorter in the winter, although the winter mornings are less gloomy.
Photo: AFP
Most areas in North America and Europe, and some areas in the Middle East, observe daylight saving time (DST), while most areas of Africa and Asia do not.
But in order to turn back the time on the changing of the clocks, the move will first have to be approved unanimously by all member states of the European Union via the European Council as well as MPs in the European parliament.
With Britain on schedule to quit the EU in March next year, it is unclear whether the country would be affected by the EU's move if it goes ahead. British time is currently an hour behind French time throughout the year along with Ireland and Portugal.
The change between summer and winter time, introduced in Europe originally to save energy after the oil shock, has been a constant controversy for years.
Its detractors point out in particular the physiological disturbances that it entails.
Why was the practice introduced at all?
The idea of daylight saving time was introduced during WWI as a way of conserving energy and Britain has it almost continuously since it was first brought in. 
However other European countries did not adopt the practice until the oil crisis of the 1970s. 
But, according to a study published in October 2017 by the European Parliament, the energy savings from daylight saving time are actually very small, with the change in consumption somewhere between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent depending on the country's latitude.
What effects might abolishing it have on Europeans?
– Road safety: If Europe decides to stick to its summer hours, in theory there could be fewer traffic accidents. Previously governments have said that the sleep deprivation that people experience when the clocks go forward in spring, could increase the risk of accidents on the road. 
– Health: The European Parliament members who initially supported getting rid of the clock changes looked at several reports into the negative effect they have on people's health. 
According to a 2017 study, with 185,000 subjects, diagnoses of depression during the transition from summer to winter time increase by 11 percent.
Findings “suggest that the effect on the human biorhythm may be more severe than previously thought,” the Commission said on its site.