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Europe is considering a ban on either summer or winter time — but can’t decide which – Washington Post

BERLIN — As Americans were about to go to bed on Saturday, Europeans were starting to wake up in a new time zone, one that has long been associated with heavy economic and health burdens. A week earlier than the United States, European countries set their clocks back by one hour early Sunday morning, marking the start of winter time.

Like in the United States — where daylight saving time could soon be abandoned in states such as Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire — E.U. nations are increasingly vocal about what some perceive as a waste of resources with little benefit. In Poland, there was recently rare cross-party agreement when parliamentarians pursued efforts to end summer time.

“The time changes can lead to imbalances in the body clock, leading to mood swings, trouble with sleeping, and an increased risk of heart attacks and road accidents,” said lawmaker Bronislaw Karasek, who worked on the bill for the center-left Polish People’s Party.

The country is technically not allowed to implement such changes alone because it is bound by E.U. rules, but the Polish initiative was still welcomed by other member states that similarly oppose sticking with daylight saving time. The E.U. Commission is now reportedly considering a proposal to end it altogether.

The biggest challenge with abandoning the practice will be to agree on whether Europe should be on permanent summer or winter time in the future. Time zones often stretch across continents without a clear pattern: Looking at a map, one would assume that Britain, France and Spain are in the same zone, for example, but they aren’t. Hence, for some E.U. nations it would make more sense to abandon summer time. For others, sticking with winter time even during the summer would be more advantageous to save energy.

Daylight saving time was introduced during World Wars I and II to save energy costs, both in the United States and in Europe, although its modern-day effect on energy consumption is disputed.

It was standardized across Western Europe in the early 1980s and has since been in place more or less without modifications. Although more than 70 countries use some form of daylight saving time today, the practice is still most popular in Europe and the United States — as other countries either never joined or have since abandoned it.

Turkey ended daylight saving time last year and moved to a permanent summer time and the Moroccan government suspends it during the fasting month of Ramadan, which currently falls during the summer.

In Europe, the status quo has faced mounting criticism as researchers have pointed out the health and economic burden. Russian scientists, for example, found that the risk of heart attacks increased by 50 percent and the rate of suicides grew even more when clocks were changed. As a result, then-President Dimitry Medvedev ended daylight saving time in 2011 and moved the country to a permanent summer time. Complaints mounted in response, as residents in more remote parts of Russia noted that the decision meant that the sun would rise only at 9 a.m. When he resumed office, President Vladimir Putin decided to move to a permanent winter time instead.

The same controversy is now set to hit the European parliament, where lawmakers are preparing a framework for abandoning daylight saving time. Whereas a number of experts, policymakers and many Europeans appear to agree with the idea, implementing it is likely to prove challenging. A British effort to investigate whether abandoning daylight saving time in its current form would make sense was itself abandoned in 2010, although it was supported by then-Prime Minister David Cameron.

If Poland were to push ahead with its own reform proposals this time, other countries may follow, though. A parliamentary committee in Finland urged E.U. action last week after 70,000 signed a petition. And in Germany, two out of the three parties that are most likely to form a coalition government in the coming weeks favor abandoning the time change, too.

Read more: 

The radical plan to destroy time zones

Europe is considering a ban on either summer or winter time — but can’t decide which – Washington Post

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