March 26, 2019 / 12:57 PM / 4 months ago

Time for a change - EU lawmakers vote to scrap clock shifts in 2021

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers voted on Tuesday to scrap the practice of moving clocks forward by an hour in spring then back again in the autumn in the bloc from April 2021, two years later than the EU executive initially proposed.

FILE PHOTO: A giant clock is seen over the entrance of Cergy-Saint-Christophe railway station in Cergy, near Paris, France, September 19, 2018. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

The European Parliament voted by 410 to 192 in favour of ending the practice of seasonal time shifts. The vote is not the last word on the issue but will form the basis of discussions with EU countries to produce a final law. The countries have yet to take a stance.

EU law has required all countries in the bloc to observe daylight saving time, moving clocks forward by an hour on the last Sunday of March and back by an hour on the final Sunday in October.

The practice of switching the clocks, also observed in countries such as the United States, was first introduced in World War One to save energy by prolonging evening daylight in summer.

The European Commission proposed in September ending the practice after an EU-wide opinion survey showed a large majority in favour of doing so. The survey generated 4.6 million responses, with 84 percent of respondents wanting to end seasonal clock changes.

Critics say the survey was dominated by Germans, who made up 70 percent of the respondents.

A parliament report in favour of operating on a single time throughout the year said scientific studies link time changes to diseases of the cardiovascular or immune systems because they interrupt biological cycles, and that there were no longer any energy savings.

“New technology and different ways of living mean that we no longer earn anything (from time change), in fact we don’t save,” Marita Ulvskog, the lawmaker in charge of the time change file, told the EU parliament during a debate on the issue on Monday.

If the Commission’s original proposal had passed, the coming weekend would have been the last occasion to set clocks forward, with EU countries then deciding whether to stick to permanent summer time or switch back in October to permanent winter time.

Countries would not then be able to change their clocks forward and backward during the year, but would be free to decide which time zone they wanted to be in.

The European Union will have 27 members once Britain leaves the bloc. The UK government has indicated it will stick to the current system after Brexit.

The seasonal time shift has also been the subject of debate in the United States, where legislators have tried unsuccessfully to abolish it. For now, Hawaii and most of Arizona do not follow the practice since World War Two of adjusting clocks.

Russia decided in 2011 to switch to permanent summer time in an attempt to improve citizens’ well-being but shifted to permanent winter time in 2014 after public complaints.

The majority of countries outside Europe and North America do not adjust their clocks.

Reporting by Clare Roth and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Frances Kerry

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