“We are proposing to put an end to seasonal clock changes as of next year,” EU Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said in a press release.
“This very ambitious timetable will allow citizens to reap the benefits without delay. We are now inviting member states and businesses to make the necessary preparations to ensure a coordinated approach across the EU,” she said.
The commission proposes that member states should be free to decide “once and for all” whether they want to adopt summertime or wintertime permanently.
“The legislative proposal seeks to ensure that any changes are made in a coordinated way between neighboring countries so as to safeguard the proper functioning of the internal market and avoid fragmentation, which could arise if some member states kept seasonal clock changes arrangements while others discontinued them,” the EU’s executive body said in the press release.
Each member state would have until April 2019 to inform the Commission whether it wants to be in summertime or wintertime. The last mandatory change to summertime would take place on March 31, 2019.
Countries wishing to permanently switch back to wintertime would be able to make one last seasonal clock change on October 27, 2019.
“Following that date, seasonal clock changes would no longer be possible,” the Commission said.
Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis noted that Lithuania was among the initiators of discussions about ending seasonal clock changes, despite sceptics saying it would fail to convince Brussels.
“It turns out that everything is possible when you want it. I’m glad we have the decision and we’ll now have to make up our minds about which time we want to keep,” Skvernelis said.
“We’ll take our decision based on experts’ conclusions on which time is more acceptable for us in our climatic conditions,” he said, adding that he had not yet seen the EU’s official position.
The EU has been switching between summer and winter time for 12 years.
Many European countries began the practice of setting clocks forward in spring and back in fall during World War One to save energy. The practice spread again during World War Two and during the energy crisis of the 1970s.
The Commission says, however, that “the purpose of clock changes has become much less relevant, with studies suggesting that energy savings are now marginal and citizens increasingly complaining about negative health impacts”.
A public consultation held by the Commission in August showed that 84 percent of respondents were in favor of scrapping the arrangement.