HELSINKI/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - From the depths of its northern winter darkness, Finland called on the European Union on Friday to scrap summer — or at least the EU’s twice-yearly switch of clocks to daylight saving time.
In Brussels, however, the EU executive showed little sign of haste to comply, confirming only that a long-term review of its 2001 Summer Time Directive was still going on.
A study for the European Commission in 2014 found the overwhelming majority of member states were happy with the current arrangements.
But in Helsinki, most northerly of the EU’s national capitals where there is less than six hours of daylight in late December, there is a problem. Pressed by a public petition that secured over 70,000 signatures, politicians say moving clocks forward and back by an hour in spring and autumn disrupts sleep and work and could cause long-term health problems.
The country’s EU ministerial committee discussed the matter on Friday and Transport Minister Anne Berner tweeted: “The government has decided to propose abolition of daylight saving.
“Our objective is to abandon the changing of clocks uniformly within the EU. Member states should jointly agree whether to move permanently to winter or to summer time.”
Like neighbours across the Baltic, Finland also shares an inconvenience of the time difference changing at borders with non-EU Russia, Belarus and Ukraine — they all gave up daylight saving after a decision taken by Moscow in 2011.
The practice gained popularity in many countries during the energy crises of the 1970s as a means of saving power and money by effectively shifting daylight from the sleepy early hours to the busy evening.
To end variations in when clocks changed, the EU standardised a policy in the 1990s by which all member states now must move clocks an hour forward at 0100 GMT on the last Sunday in March and an hour back on the last Sunday in October.
A Commission spokesman declined to speculate on how quickly the EU executive might act on the Finnish request. “This is a complex issue,” Enrico Brivio told reporters.
“The Commission is currently examining the summer time question based on all available evidence.”
Pressed again, he replied: “I can sing you ‘Summertime’.”
Reporting by Tuomas Forsell in Helsinki and Alastair Macdonald in Brussels; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Richard Balmforth