Clocks go back in France despite EU deal on scrapping hour change

The clock at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris
Clocks will change this weekend in France. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP
The clocks go back this weekend in France, in what was originally foreseen as the last changing of the hour - but EU-wide disputes mean the annual ritual may continue for some time yet.

France moves to winter time this weekend, with 3am on Sunday, October 31st, marking the moment when clocks go back by one hour, giving most people an extra lie-in on Sunday morning.

In place in the EU since 1976, the twice-yearly changing of the clocks has been controversial for some time and in 2019 lawmakers in the European Parliament voted by a large majority – 410 MEPs against 192 – in favour of stopping the changing of the hour from 2021.

However, following the vote, the Parliament specified that each EU member state would decide whether they would keep summer time or winter time.

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In France, public opinion is resoundingly in favour of scrapping the hour change. A public consultation made in early 2019 collected more than 2 million responses, with a majority of French voters wanting to stick with summer time.  

The 2021 deadline to scrap, however, was derailed by Covid which disrupted the normal parliamentary timetables in most countries.

But as normal political life resumes a further problem has emerged – although EU countries agree on scrapping the hour change, they cannot agree on whether to stick with summer or winter time.

Having many different EU countries in different time zones would create all sorts of practical problems for business and trade, not to mention the substantial number of cross-border workers who live in one EU country and work in another.

Green MEP Karima Delli told French TV channel BFM: “The ball is in the court of the Member States.

“We agree on the time change, but what really blocks is: do we stay on summer time or winter time? This is a real problem because the Member States cannot agree.”

She underlined “indirect problems on connectivity, on transport… All this must be organised”, adding: “If I am French and I work in Germany, I am not going to change my watch in the morning and in the evening. We really need harmonisation.”

With clocks slipping down the political agenda in favour of more urgent problems, it seems unlikely that this weekend will be the last time the clocks change in France.

Member comments

  1. From a UK standpoint, why not abolish summer time and continue with historical GMT and the ball which falls at noon – all based on the zero meridian which passes through Greenwich observatory. It might seem odd that France should retain its summer timing because that would put it two hours ahead of its true midday (and of every other true hour in the day, including change of date). I suggest that “midday” or noon be the moment when the sun is at its zenith over the mid point of a country’s applicable meridian(s), allowing for time zones over oceans and large countries. Looking at the history of changing times seasonally, isn’t there quite a warlike basis for it, back to the late 1800s?

    1. Christ the Englanders aren’t satisfied with messing up our trawlermen now they want to take over our time as well.😀 Just keep it on Daylight Saving Time like we voted for or are the gammons expecting another war to start over fish.👿

      1. Bonjour Boggy, whoever you are. Let’s discuss TIME and leave Christ, “Englanders”, trawlermen and gammons out of it. Starting point which you cannot get away from: noon/midday is when the sun is at its zenith (highest point overhead) wherever you are; the rest is convenience, including important elements of practical necessity.

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