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The Sun is Setting on DST in the EU

The clock is ticking on Daylight Saving Time (DST) as the European Parliament takes formal steps to end the seasonal time change permanently.

European Parliament building at sunset. Brussels, Belgium.

The Sun is setting on DST in Europe.

The Sun is setting on DST in the European Union. European Parliament building in Brussels, Belgium.

©iStockphoto.com/PaulGrecaud

2021 may be the last time the EU Member States and affiliated countries set their clocks for Daylight Saving Time (DST).

Plans to Scrap the Clock Change

On March 26, 2019, the European Parliament voted in favor of backing the EU Committee draft directive to stop the one-hour clock change in the European Union, the European Parliament Press Room reports. The draft law was approved with 410 in favor, 192 against, and 51 abstentions.

The vote is another formal step towards a permanent elimination of DST in the EU. The proposal will form the basis of discussions between the EU Ministers to produce a final law repealing Directive 2000/84/EC, the EU's existing DST legislation, also known as the Summer Time Directive.

Countries Decide Their Time

Under the directive, each Member State will have until April 2020 to decide whether to remain permanently on “summer time” or to change their clocks back one final time to permanent standard time, also known as “winter time.”

So far, none of the EU countries have given their official response to the European Parliament, though opponents are worried that the directive could lead to a patchwork of time zones across Europe. This could cause a fragmentation of the European market destabilizing the union at a time when it is already being plagued by questions about the integrity of its single market.

Possibly Two Time Zones under Brexit

Brexit, the United Kingdom's planned withdrawal from the European Union, is also causing a bit of a hiccup when it comes to the DST debate. Depending on the deal reached between the British government and the EU, the directive may or may not apply in the UK during a transition period in case the country decides to leave the EU.

Worst case, the island of Ireland could even end up with two time zones, Northern Ireland following the time the UK decides to use and the Republic of Ireland, an EU Member State, observing another time zone. However, both the UK and Ireland have vowed to oppose the EU's proposal to abolish the seasonal clock changes.

When Will DST Stop in Europe?

The draft directive proposes that the countries that decide to stay on permanent DST will make their final clock change on March 28, 2021, and will not change their clocks back to standard time on October 31, 2021.

In contrast, the countries that decide to remain on standard time all year will set their clocks forward one hour for DST on March 28, 2021, but then will change their clocks for the final time on October 31, 2021.

History of DST in the EU

The EU first synchronized its Daylight Saving Time schedule in 1980 to ensure continuously stable time offsets across the single market.

Currently, DST in Europe runs from 01:00 UTC on the last Sunday of March to 01:00 UTC on the last Sunday of October every year.

It includes all countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), except Iceland. Switzerland follows the same schedule, although the country is not part of the EEA.

Topics: Time Zone, Daylight Saving Time

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