Why this could be the last time Spain turns back the clocks

When the clocks go back in Spain this Sunday, could it be for the last time?

Why this could be the last time Spain turns back the clocks
Clock on City Hall in Pamplona. Photo: Peter Gallagher/Flickr

When the EU announced a movement to abolish the practice of daylight saving last year, it particularly struck a chord in Spain, where many believe they are living in the wrong time zone.

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.

EU wide movement against it

In 2018, the President of the EU Commission announced his plan to abolish the changing of the clocks after an online survey showed that Europeans are in favour of staying permanently on “summer time”.

Jean-Claude Juncker said he wanted to follow the wishes of the 80 percent of Europeans who voted to get rid of the seasonal changing of the clocks, so Europe could remain on Summer Time all year round.

But earlier this year the measure was postponed until 2021 to allow all the national government time to decide which time-zone they want to stick in. 

This means that European nations must communicate whether they choose summer or winter time, at the latest, by March 2021. If they opt for the first option, the last time change will take place in March 2021, while the clock will be changed for the last time in October 2021 in those nations that decide to stay with winter time.

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

Photo: AFP


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: 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

Not everyone, however is in favour of putting the clocks back an hour. Not even just for winter.

The tourism industry argues that the extra hour of evening sun is a draw for visitors.

The Balearic Islands want to introduce a measure that will see time stand still across the archipelago, or at least will see the islands keep summertime when the rest of Spain turns the clocks.

MPs from all parties in the Balearic parliament support the initiative that argues that the hour change is bad for islands that depend so much on daylight.

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.

Spain is yet to decide

In the wake of the EU decision, Spain approved the creation of a commission of experts to study the consequences of scrapping the hour change and settlling permanently on either Summer or Winter time.

A group of 14 experts are preparing reports on how Spaniards could be adversly affected, especially those in the most vulnerable population groups. They are also tasked with looking at how the different schedules influence social, environmental and economic sustainability.

That committee has yet to produce a report or a definnitive answer on whether Spain should stick to Summer Time or permanently turn back its clocks an hour.  


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OFFICIAL: Vaccinated global travellers will finally be able to come to Spain from June 7th

The Spanish government on Saturday June 5th published a state bulletin confirming that it will modify the entry rules for vaccinated non-EU/Schengen citizens from June 7th. 

OFFICIAL: Vaccinated global travellers will finally be able to come to Spain from June 7th

As we reported ahead of time on Friday, Spain has gone ahead and changed its entry rules for non-EU/Schengen vaccinated travellers, only seven days after it extended a ban on non-essential travel from outside the bloc.

This has caused plenty of confusion over the past week, as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had initially said that all vaccinated travellers, “regardless of their country of origin”, would be able to come to Spain from June 7th, whereas last weekend’s state bulletin BOE made no mention of vaccinated travellers and in fact extended the ban on non-essential travel from third countries until June 30th.

In the end, Sánchez and his government have stuck to their word, and were just keeping their cards close to their chest while preparing a new BOE with conditions that modify the travel rules published only seven days earlier.  

What has Spain now confirmed?

Spain has “modified the criteria for the temporary restriction of non-essential travel from third countries to the EU and Schengen countries” the document begins. 

The standout modification is that people who wish to travel to Spain from outside the EU/Schengen Zone can do so from June 7th if they have a vaccination certificate and have had their full vaccination treatment or last dose 14 days before travel. 

In essence, vaccinated people have been added to the list of non-EU/Schengen travellers who are exempt from the ban on non-essential travel to Spain, which up to now had been mainly for Spanish nationals and residents, students, several different categories of key workers and in some cases spouses and family members of Spanish/EU and those who can prove force majeure reasons (more details here and here). 

This BOE is the first official document confirming Pedro Sánchez’s words on May 21st, and has been released less than 48 hours before the new rule comes into effect, at 00:00 hours on June 7th 2021. 

There are no changes to the list of non-EU countries which are exempt from Spain’s non-essential travel rule. People from Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macao, China, the United Kingdom and Japan can continue coming to Spain for non-essential reasons such as holidays.

The difference for vaccinated travellers from countries that are not on the list is that they as “specific people” are now also exempt from the non-essential travel ban, as long as they can prove they’ve been vaccinated.

The Spanish government has published a second state bulletin which lays out the new conditions for travel to Spain regarding vaccination certificates, health passes and more, so stay tuned to The Local Spain as we will cover all this in detail.


Reader question: Which Covid vaccines does Spain accept for international tourists to visit?