Picture: Greg Tsai

The switch between summer and winter time may soon be history in the European Union, and we partly have Finland to thank for it.

Originally, the daylight-saving time concept, where the clock is turned forward in the summer and back in the winter, was adopted by several countries during World War I to conserve fuel by reducing the need for artificial light.

There’s more to the history than that but to keep a long story short most European countries adopted the habit in 1980, Finland following in 1981. In 2001, an EU directive has regulated the daylight saving time: an hour forward on the last Sunday in March and an hour backward on the last Sunday in October.

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The EU Commission is justifying the rule as one of the ways of keeping the trade and travel running smoothly between the internal market. It’s one of the tools for preventing one country or a company from gaining a competitive advantage.

The Finnish people, however, don’t benefit much from fiddling with the hands of the clock. Irritated looks at the workplace, extra yawns and namecalling are some of the known symptoms along with messing up one’s circadian rhythms. And to think about all those poor people living in the northern parts of the country, where the sun hardly sets during the summer nor rises in the winter.

Millions take part in online poll

Finland started lobbying for the abolition of the EU daylight saving time in June last year, and after a citizens’ initiative gathered more than 70,000 signatures supporting it, the suggestion was brought to the attention of the EU parliament at the beginning of 2018.

In the spring, the EU Commission decided to launch a public poll asking the citizens’ opinion in all 28 member states.

In result, over 80 percent of the respondents supported of ending the back and forth in the online survey that ran between July 4 and August 16. Some 4.6 million people took part in it, making it the largest online poll in the history of the EU.

At the end of August, the EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the union is now planning to get rid of the daylight saving time.

“We carried out a survey, millions responded and believe that in future, summertime should be year-round, and that’s what will happen,” Juncker told German public broadcaster ZDF.

“The people want it, we’ll do it.”