Always a controversial issue in Spain, which is an hour ahead of its natural geographical time zone, and equally in the UK where a decision to prevent night falling before 16.00 in the winter would mean children in Scotland walking to school in the dark, the European Union recognises that the reasons for which the clock changes were created, and later maintained, are now obsolete.
Debate continues to rage in Spain, where the popular theory is that the reason for the mainland and Balearic Islands being on Central European Time (CET) in winter and Central European Summer Time (CEST) in summer is that, during World War II, dictator General Franco moved the clocks forward to align with his allies in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, and that this has never been changed.
More recently, however, physics experts have debunked this hypothesis, explaining that it was a post-war decision by France’s Général de Gaulle in a bid to keep mainland western Europe on the same time zone to aid in maintaining peace.
This has also meant that a large part of France, and also Belgium and The Netherlands, are on the wrong time since, geographically, they fall within GMT, or BST (British Summer Time) in summer.
Calls to put Spain back on GMT have become louder in the past few years, especially in north-western Galicia which wants to align with Portugal directly due south, which is on GMT.
In fact, sundown in Galicia is typically around an hour earlier at any time of year than in the Balearic Islands, halfway between the east coast of the mainland and the west coast of Italy.
The Canary Islands, already on GMT, does not want the rest of Spain to change, because this quirk means a ‘reminder’ of the region on national radio at every hour – DJs or presenters announcing the time say, for example: “It’s now three o’clock, and two o’clock in the Canaries,” which would be lost if the whole country was on GMT.
The Balearics, however, wants to go a step in the other direction: moving the clocks onto CEST as usual in March, but keeping them there year-round or even skipping forward an additional hour each summer, so as to give tourists as much time as possible to enjoy their holidays in daylight.
This may not be workable, since heading east over southern Europe would mean crossing from the mainland on CEST, via a region on Greek and Finnish time, and back to CEST within the space of a two-hour flight.
Those who feel strongly about the hour change have until August 16 to share their views on the EU survey.
This mainly deals with the switch to CEST and BST, but also asks whether, if time changes were to be scrapped, the respondent would prefer to remain in summer or winter hours.
A box at the end allows for individual comments.
It is not a referendum and is advisory only, meaning no automatic action will be taken in line with the majority, but it will give the European Commission – the EU’s ‘civil service’ – food for discussion and possible later decisions.
The poll can be found by searching ‘EU survey summer arrangements 2018’ online.