GENVAL: The European Union said Friday it will recommend abolishing the twice-yearly clock change amid unprecedented demand from European citizens who called it disruptive and even harmful to health.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said “summer time should be year round” with his commissioners pledging to act on the move during their annual retreat to a lakeside hotel in Genval, Belgium.
The commission is now preparing a proposal to send to the European Parliament and the member states in the following weeks, which could be enacted by 2020 or 2021, Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc told reporters.
“Millions of Europeans used our public consultation to make their voices heard,” Bulc said.
“The message is very clear: 84 percent of them do not want the clocks to change anymore,” the Slovenian commissioner said.
According to preliminary results, some 4.6 million European citizens responded to the online poll — the biggest in EU history, Bulc said — on whether they wanted the change.
Since 1996, all Europeans have been advancing their clock by one hour on the last Sunday of March and putting it back one hour on the last Sunday of October.
Under the new proposal, it will be up to each individual member state to decide whether they follow winter time or summer time.
The EU has backed a uniform seasonal clock-change for 12 years after many European countries began the practice in World War I on the premise it saved energy.
The practice was reinforced during World War II and during the energy crisis in the 1970s.
But Bulc said the energy savings argument is less powerful in a modern economy that is also moving to cleaner forms of energy.
“There is no obvious evidence that energy is saved,” she told reporters at the swanky lake-side hotel.
She said citizens complained about disruption to their home lives, the number of hours spent in darkness, as well as negative effects on their health.
Speaking to German public broadcaster ZDF, Juncker said the survey indicated “summer time should be year-round, and that’s what will happen”.
“I will recommend to the Commission that, if you ask the citizens, then you have to do what the citizens say,” said Juncker, speaking in German.
The survey was conducted between 4 July and August 16.
Public consultations are one of the tools the Commission uses to assess policy, along with scientific studies.
Though an unprecedented number of people responded to the survey, the participation rate was 0.89 percent of the population across the bloc, with the highest in Germany at 3.79 percent and the lowest in Britain, which is leaving the EU, at 0.02 percent.