Czech senator launches EU-wide petition to end daylight saving time

Photo: Štěpánka Budková

Czech Senator Petr Šilar has launched a campaign to cancel daylight saving time in the European Union. An online collection of signatures begins in the Czech Republic and Slovakia on Thursday and will later be made available to people in Germany, Holland, and other EU countries. The goal is to gather at least one million signatures within one year, and bring the issue to the attention of the EU authorities.

Photo: Štěpánka Budková
August 1 is the first day when people in the Czech Republic and Slovakia can support an initiative to end daylight saving time in the European Union. The campaign, entitled Only One Time, is headed by the Czech Christian Democrat Senator Petr Šilar who has long been trying to get the twice-annual time switch cancelled in his own country. But after several failed attempts to persuade his fellow lawmakers to back the proposal, he has decided to deal with the issue in the whole of the European Union.

“We need to approach this on the European level because the European Union coordinates the switch to daylight saving time which takes place at the same time in the entire bloc. So we need to cancel this via the so-called European citizens’ initiative.”

Under EU rules, the European citizens’ initiative requires the backing of at least one million EU citizens from a minimum of seven member states. The signatures will be collected online, and people will first have to register to be able to back the proposal. If successful, the initiative will get a hearing in the European Parliament, and will also be discussed by the European Commission.

“We will be collecting signatures in all EU member states. We have started with the Czech Republic and Slovakia where people have already had a chance to pre-register. We need to have signatures of citizens from at least seven EU countries so we are later planning to collect signatures in Germany, Holland, Poland, the Benelux, and the Scandinavian countries.”

Petr Šilar,  photo: official website of Petr Šilar
In Europe, daylight saving time was first introduced in Germany and Austro-Hungary during WWI to save energy on lighting. But today, that is no longer the case, and Mr Šilar also says there is enough scientific evidence that jumping forward in the spring and falling back in the autumn has negative effects on human health. Based on reactions from various EU countries, the senator believes it will not be difficult to collect enough signatures.

“We have heard from across the EU from people who don’t like the time switch. We estimate that around 20 percent of the population suffer from various health problems because of the change, or just don’t like getting up earlier in the spring. So we believe it will be easy to collect the required number of signatures.”

If successful, the Only One Time initiative should reach Brussels next summer. Before it does, however, the organizers will have to resolve one major issue – which of the alternating times should be kept. Some opponents of the time switch – mainly those living in Scandinavia – would actually prefer to extend daylight saving time to the entire year. But other people, mainly in southern Europe, would rather cancel summer time altogether.