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Stop the clocks: Europe ticks closer to ending daylight saving time

84 percent of respondents to an EU-wide consultation want to see an end to biannual clock changes. It will now be proposed in the European Parliament.
by Francis Whittaker and Andy Eckardt /

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LONDON — Europe looks set to stop the clocks.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Friday that he will bring forward proposals to scrap daylight saving time across the 28-nation European Union.

It follows a six-week E.U.-wide public consultation on scrapping the practice. Preliminary results from the survey reveal 84 percent of 4.6 million respondents want to end biannual clock changes.

Image: The European Commission will recommend EU member states abolish daylight saving
A technician working on the clock of the Lukaskirche Church in Dresden, eastern Germany.Sebastian Kahnert / AFP - Getty Images file

“The debate about summer time, winter time has been going on for a while,” Juncker said in an interview with NBC News’ German partner ZDF.

"Millions have answered and are of the opinion that the summer time should count at all times, that is how it will happen.”

European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, said in a statement that millions of Europeans had used the consultation to “make their voices heard” and sent a “very clear” message.

Final results from the consultation will be published in coming weeks.

Any change would still need approval from national governments and the European Parliament before becoming law. The commission’s announcement means the change will be formally proposed to parliament.

E.U. law currently requires that citizens in all 28 member countries move their clocks an hour forward on the last Sunday in March and switch back to winter time on the final Sunday in October.

It also states that any changes to this practice would have to be made in unison across the entire bloc.

The bid to scrap daylight saving time has been led by Finland, the bloc's most northerly nation and situated in the easternmost of its three time zones.

Image: Sunset in Helsinki, Finland
Tourists sit on steps looking out over Senate square as the sun sets in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018.Bloomberg / Getty Images file

In parts of the country, there are long periods of the year where the sun barely rises or sets, meaning daylight saving time barely saves any daylight at all.

Last year, a Finnish citizen’s petition on scrapping the practice was signed by 70,000 people. A parliamentary committee then consulted experts on the matter, who concluded the government should do what the petition asked.

The Finnish committee’s report concluded that biannual clock changes causes short-term sleeping disorders, impairs performance in the workplace, and can lead to longer-term health problems as people struggle to adapt.

However, supporters of daylight saving believe it can improve public safety, citing U.S. research pointing to a decrease in robberies after spring clock changes.

Speaking to NBC News in July, Nils Torvalds, a Finnish lawmaker in the European Parliament, said there was something of a consensus in the country.

“The message I get on my email, or whenever I’m somewhere in Finland, is that ‘could you please have this finished?’” he said.

Francis Whittaker reported from London, Andy Eckardt reported from Mainz, Germany.

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