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The majority of the Maltese public appears to be in favour of keeping to permanent summer time, should the biannual changes to clocks be scrapped by the European Union, as suggested by the European Parliament, says Dr Daniel Attard, Government Spokesperson of the Ministry of European Affairs and Equality (MEAE), revealing the results of their public consultation to Business Malta. At the same time, the Ministry spokesperson insists that no decision has yet been made, and the Maltese government is running discussions to see which option would be the most beneficial.

“The results of a questionnaire [aimed at the civil society in the framework of a public consultation] commissioned by the government show that a significant majority of participants supported permanent summer time (71.76%) and a small minority supported permanent winter time (8.36%). Only 19.88% of participants opted to keep the seasonal changes,” the ministry spokesperson tells BM.

At the same time, the Maltese government is still leading ongoing consultations with the business landscape and industry stakeholders to assess the foreseen impact of the proposal of scrapping the daylight savings time (DST), or potential amendments to the practice.

Less than a fortnight ago, Malta — as well as all the other countries in Europe — set the clocks an hour forward, which practice has marked the start of daylight savings time since Germany introduced it to Europe in 1916 — after a few hundred Canadians in 1908. Clocks will be set back later this year for the winter time. However, the custom may come to an end in a few years, due to the currently ongoing discussions about the practicality of daylight savings on an EU level.

On 26 March 2019, The European Parliament voted in favour of backing a European Union Committee draft that aims to put a stop at the one-hour clock changes in the European Union, another formal step toward a permanent elimination of DST in the bloc. Based on the proposal, EU ministers are expected to produce a final law that could scrap DST by 2021.

Supporters of scrapping the DST say that road accidents and sleep troubles amplify in the period of changing the time, while energy savings — the primary reason for the DST — are not conclusive.

Time zone ‘patchwork’ concerns arise

“During discussions, member states in the European Council agreed that the European Union needs more time to accurately assess the impact of this proposal [of scrapping DST]. Furthermore, some member states also emphasised that the biannual changes have a direct effect on citizens, as well as on sectors, like aviation,” the ministry spokesperson breaks down the current sentiment.

“In this regard, many delegations in the council insisted that thorough evaluations were necessary. These calls were echoed by the Maltese government, particularly since it believes that the quality of legislation must not be sacrificed for unnecessarily sped-up negotiations. At the same time, the Maltese government shares concerns related to a potential scenario where the European Union could become a patchwork of time zones,” the ministry spokesperson adds.

Although the European Parliament confirmed its support to scrap time changes by 2021, the majority of governments are yet to agree on whether they support the removal of seasonal time changes, as well as when this would be enacted. “An agreement between legislators is necessary to adopt this proposal,” the ministry spokesperson concludes.