Timeless discussions about an hour of daylight

In the early hours of Sunday, Swiss clocks went forward one hour in line with Daylight Saving Time. It's a long story with a twist on Swiss democracy.

This content was published on March 25, 2018 minutes

And as parliaments in both the European Union and Switzerland consider a policy reversal, the clocks could soon cease to change.

Clocks had to be adjusted in the night between Saturday and Sunday at 2am, jumping one hour to 3am.

Even though the first switch to Daylight Saving Time came nearly four decades ago, it has remained a thorny issue in Switzerland. A proposal, filed in 2016, is pending in parliament calling for its abolition. Many previous political attempts failed.

The government insists on its position, saying a policy reversal would undermine relations with other countries, notably with the most important trading partners. It argues that different time zones would complicate exchange with them. The government adds that a policy reversal would bring high extra costs of adapting and coordinating daily business.

Moves are also underway in the EU to do away with Daylight Saving Time. European parliamentarians called on the Commission in February to examine the pros and cons of the seasonal time change – and consider a policy reversal if necessary.

The proposal won a clear majority in the Brussels parliament, but a plan by the transport committee to scrap summertime was rejected.

Swiss voters: No seasonal time change

Daylight Saving Time was introduced in Europe back in 1973 at the time of an oil crisis. The aim was to allow companies and households to save energy by taking advantage of an extra hour of daylight in the summer months.

Switzerland followed the example of Europe in 1981, primarily to align itself with neighbouring countries.

It is an irony of Swiss history that voters did not agree to the seasonal time switch. A group of young farmers successfully challenged a parliamentary decision and won a subsequent nationwide vote in 1978.

But as a growing number of European countries introduced Daylight Saving Time n 1980, the government submitted a new proposal to parliament, and parliament passed the bill.

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