Following a number of requests from citizens, the European Parliament and some EU countries, the European Commission has decided to examine the functioning of the current EU rules on summer time and to decide whether they should be changed. The issue has become particularly relevant since several EU countries (Lithuania, Finland and Estonia) have asked the Union to repeal the practice.[i] Finland specifically called for the twice-yearly change of time to be discontinued and Lithuania called for a revision of the current system to take account of regional and geographical differences. At the beginning of February, the European Parliament insisted on an in-depth assessment of the summer-winter time change and revision of the regime if necessary.

About 4.6 million people took part in the European Commission survey which ran from early July till mid-August. This is the largest online survey in EU history. Over three million of the respondents were from Germany. Most of those who do not want the clocks to change prefer keeping the summer time. According to the preliminary results, 84 of respondents are in favour of putting an end to the bi-annual clock change.[ii]

The resolution voted by the European Parliament called on the European Commission to investigate and assess the effects of changing clocks on both health and energy efficiency.

A debate continuing for a long time

Summer time, as we know it today, was first proposed in the late 19th century in New Zealand and in the early 20th century in England. Contrary to popular belief, Benjamin Franklin did not invent the idea (though he was thinking about the theory of its effectiveness), since time was not standardized in his day, as it is now. In Germany, daylight saving time (in its current form) was introduced in 1980 to save energy. Elsewhere in Europe, summer time was introduced during the First and Second World Wars, or during the 1970ies oil crisis. In Bulgaria, daylight saving time was first introduced in 1979.[iii]

What is even less certain is the economic impact of daylight saving time – or what is the point of that. Ample reasons for moving clocks forward and then backward were given over the years and most of the data behind those arguments were either rejected or rendered useless by subsequent studies.

Of course, this definitely gives people more hours after working time during the half of the year and briefly refreshes the morning in autumn and winter. But in today’s conditions, the reduction in energy costs is offset by the growing need for air conditioners. And it is not clear whether the economic impact of summer time is steadily increasing, decreasing, or has no impact on consumer spending, because different surveys in different countries and cities show different results.

From the point of view of energy consumption, the business is likely to experience a net loss from daylight saving time. And that seems to hold true for sales as well, with some exceptions.

Big businesses and those who are particularly affected by daylight hours, such as golf courses, can make the most of daylight saving time and lobbied for it in the. According to CBC, the groups in the industry, which represent large retail chains, sports and leisure manufacturers, barbecue and charcoal retailers, shopping centers and golf courses, are the main players lobbying the US Congress to extend summer time, which happened in 2005.[iv]

The question of changing time as part of EU policy

The regime is currently governed by the Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on summer-time arrangements. It provides for a harmonized date and time for the start and end of daylight saving time throughout the EU with the aim of promoting the effective functioning of the internal market. Thus, the EU summer-time arrangements require changing clocks twice a year to take account of changes in the length of the day and to take advantage of the daylight available in a given period.

Present arrangements are in place since the 1980s and are currently regulated by Directive 2000/84/EC. The Directive lays down an obligation for Member States to switch to daylight saving time on the last Sunday of March and return to winter time on the last Sunday of October. The purpose of EU summer-time legislation was to align the diverging national time shift schedules and thus ensure a harmonized approach in this area of the Single Market.

Parallel to this, and irrespective of the EU provisions on summer time, Member States are grouped into three different standard time zones. The decision on standard time is not in itself affected by EU rules on summer time or any changes to them. (EU countries now spread over three time zones: Western European Time or GMT, Central European Time (GMT + 1) and Eastern European Time (GMT + 2). Eight Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania) use GMT + 2 as the standard time. 17 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) use GMT + 1 and the other three (Ireland, Portugal and the United Kingdom – GMT. Standard time is set with respect to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) or UTC (Coordinated Universal Time).

It should also be noted that the length of the day varies according to the geographical situation of the EU countries. In the northern Member States, the seasonal change in the length of the day is high and is characterized by dark winters with short days and light summers with short nights. In the southernmost EU countries, the length of the day and night almost does not change during the year.

Over the years, a number of studies have been carried out to assess the EU’s summer time arrangements. On the basis of the available data, one can speak of the impact of changing clocks on certain areas of life of Union citizens and economic operators.

The two most discussed aspects are public health and energy. In terms of health, summer time is believed to have positive effects associated with a greater number of outdoor leisure activities. On the other hand, chronobiological studies indicate that the effect on human biorhythm may be more serious than previously thought. Available data do not provide yet a clear answer to the issue of overall health effects (that is, the balance between alleged positive and negative effects).

Although they are one of the main reasons for the current regulations, energy savings due to daylight saving time are negligible, according to research.

Road safety is another widely commented dimension related to the theme of time shift. There is no definitive evidence on the link between road accidents and daylight saving time. In principle, sleep shortage due to moving the clock an hour forward in the spring may increase the risk of accidents. At the same time, however, it is considered that longer summer days have a positive impact on road safety. It is generally difficult to say that summer time has a greater direct impact on the number of road accidents than other factors.

Finally, agriculture within the EU can also be affected by such a change. Past worries about animal biorhythm disturbance and the change of milking schedules seem to have almost entirely disappeared due to the introduction of new equipment, artificial lighting and automated technologies. Additional hours of daylight in summer can also be an advantage as they allow longer outdoor work in the fields and during harvesting.

Bulgaria is not an exception

Today the business in Bulgaria is against the time shift. Employers have calculated that direct and indirect damages from the seasonal changing of clocks amount to about BGN 400 million per year.

Energy savings are between BGN 60 and BGN 1 per person in Bulgaria which makes maximum 7 MBGN. Damage to health is estimated at between BGN 300 and 400 million. Thus, if savings were achieved at the beginning of the century, the effect at the moment is, at best, zero, if not negative.[v]

The initial idea of changing clocks is to save energy. In Bulgaria, however, we save about 54-60 cents per person per year on summer time, which is a negligible factor and can not be compared with the damage the measure causes to human health. Indeed, it seems at first sight that this is only a health problem, but it also has an economic aspect. This is because a person who has not slept enough and is not concentrated runs the risk of causing a lot of damage in a working environment. On one hand, the potential for accidents at work increases and on the other hand the productivity of labour ddecreases. The direct effect is insomnia, which 45 percent of Europeans claims to suffer from.

There is also a negative effect in agriculture where animals are stressed by the change of their regime.[vi]

The industry sector, however, takes the opposite view. Time shift is not an obstacle, it helps due to the travel dynamics. An extra hour in daylight can be very important for the tourist attractions and entertainments, so that those engaged in other activities can make use of their evenings. Longer time in the evening is especially beneficial to restaurant owners. In any case, it’s about millions of leva, and that one hour can be very important. However, the ultimate decision cannot be based on the interests of a particular industry. It must be tailored to the broader needs and requirements.

The next steps

Despite the relatively clear position of the public in the last consultation, there is still a long way to go before the public will becomes a codified act. The European Commission will propose cancellation of winter time. The final decision will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the Member States in the Union.

One thing is certain – whatever change is to be made, it must be valid for all the Member States of the Union. The internal market of the European Union is a single market in which the free movement of goods, services, capital and people is secured and in which more than 500 million European citizens are free to live, work, study and develop a business. Allowing uncoordinated changes to the time arrangements in the EU countries will cause damage to the internal market due to the higher costs of cross-border trade, the inconvenience of transport, communications and travel and lower productivity within the internal market of goods and services.

[i] Естония и Финландия са срещу смяната между лятно и зимно часово време,, available at

[ii] EU in favour of calling time on daylight saving, Financial Times, available at

[iii] Искате ли да отменят лятното часово време? Гласувайте!, Deutsche Welle, available at

[iv] The Economic Impact of Daylight Saving Time on Small Businesses, available at

[v] Бизнесът и синдикатите: Икономията на ток при лятното часово време е 7 млн. лв., щетите за здравето – над 300 млн. лв.,, available at

[vi] Бизнесът у нас иска само лятно часово време, Банкеръ, available at