EU votes to scrap clock changes: What that means for Spain

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EU votes to scrap clock changes: What that means for Spain
A vintage clock in Madrid's Atocha station. Photo: Photo: Berti123/Depositphotos"

Lawmakers in the European parliament have voted to end the traditional changing of the clocks in spring and autumn from 2021. What does that mean for Spain?


In a vote on Tuesday, MEPs voted 410 to 192 in favour of ending the practice of changing the clocks forward and back in spring and autumn from 2021.

However the parliament said it should be up to each individual member state to decide whether to stick to summer time or winter time in future.

According to the legislation passed by parliament the EU member states that decide to stay on summer time will put their clocks forward for a final time in March 2021.

And those countries that prefer to stay on winter time will put their clocks back for the final time in Autumn 2021.

The bill is now the official position of the EU parliament, however it will be up to the European Council to make a final decision on whether the clocks stop in future.

The council - which is made up by the leaders of each member state - will have to vote unanimously for the change, but may be swayed by the fact the move would be popular among Europeans.

READ MORE: EU aims to scrap turning the clocks back for winter 

Photo: AFP

Current convention has it that all of Europe changes its clocks back one hour during the night of the last Saturday in October and forward again on the last weekend of March.

The practice was introduced in the early 20th century as a way of making the most of the natural light and conserving fuel, but is considered by many to be obsolete.

Is Spain in the right time zone?

The EU-wide discussion ties in with a campaign within Spain to move the clocks back an hour permanently, ending a Franco-era legacy that has been in place more than 75 years.

Spain (apart from the Canary Islands) has been running on standard Central European Time (CET) zone, since 1942, when Spanish dictator Francisco Franco supposedly turned the clocks forward in solidarity with his allies, Nazi Germany. 

The change would make sense for Spain, which geographically lies further west than London, yet runs on the same time as the Serbian capital Belgrade, 2,500km (1,550 miles) to the east.

Map: Lmbuga/Wikimedia

The time difference also explains one of Spain's most striking peculiarities: its late meal times. Despite the country running on CET, Spaniards' eating patterns mirror GMT; people tend to eat lunch at what would be 1pm in London (but 2pm in Spain) and dinner at a reasonable 8pm in London (but a yawn-inducing 9pm in Spain).

A parliamentary paper in 2013 recommended Spain return to GMT bringing it in line with the UK and Portugal. It also suggested that prime time television, which usually starts at around 10.30pm, be brought forward so Spaniards could go to bed earlier. 

Turning back the clocks one hour would, according to Nuria Chinchilla, professor at Spain's IESE business school, help Spaniards "return to the natural order of our circadian rhythm (our 24-hour physiological cycle) that goes with the sun… and the sun in Greenwich, not Germany".

"If we don't (change time zones) we lengthen the day, eat very late and then don't sleep," she added.

José Canseco, a professor at EAE Business School and a member of National Commission for Rationalizing Spanish Timetables (ARHOE) argues that the reasons for changing the time zone twice annually are now obsolete.

 “The reasons why the time change was introduced (energy saving, fewer accidents, benefitting agriculture and livestock) are no longer in force in 2018: energy efficiency measures save much more energy, developments in infrastructure and advances in car technology prevent accidents (at night) and agriculture and livestock industries have made enough progress to not depend on one more hour of sunlight,” he said.

“In contrast, the impact of changing the time in some population groups - children, the elderly, pregnant women, or people with chronic diseases or pregnant women - is very high.

“On average, a person takes 4 days to adjust to the new schedule, but these groups can take up to two weeks to adjust.”

Photo: Justyna Rawińska / Flickr

Some opposition

The Balearic Islands want to introduce a measure that will see the islands keep their summertime as it currently stands..

MPs from all parties in the Balearic parliament support the initiative that argues that the islands depend so much on daylight so should be locked in to the current summertime and not roll the clocks back an hour in October.

Given their easterly location, the sun sets over the islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera almost an hour earlier than in the westernmost parts of Spain's peninsula.

READ MORE: Balearic Islands choose to keep summertime forever

Keeping summertime, they argue, could also bring an economic boost, bringing more tourism during the winter months and keeping down electricity bills.

The Canary Islands, which get their own mention on the hour on every radio station, have also rejected any permanent time zone change for Spain arguing that it “in no case” wants to have the same time zone as the mainland.

The clocks go forward at 2am on Sunday 31st March. 


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