Summertime and wintertime
Twice a year, the clocks in all EU Member States are switched from winter to summertime (on the last Sunday in March) and back from summer to wintertime (on the last Sunday in October). The standard time (determined by the Member States) is the wintertime and during summer, the time is put 60 minutes forward.
This practice was introduced by most Member States in the 1960s and 1970s but did not always follow the same timetable. With the emergence of the internal market, it became clear that a harmonised approach of the different summertime arrangements in the EU was required. The legislation at EU level ensures that the internal market can function by providing a clear and long-term plan and fixed timing for the bi-annual switch.
The first Summertime Directive that entered into force in 1981 laid down a common date for the beginning of the summer-time period only. Successive Directives laid down a common date for the beginning, i.e. the last Sunday in March, and two dates for the end: one on the last Sunday in September applied by the continental Member States and the other on the fourth Sunday in October for the United Kingdom and Ireland. This situation continued until the adoption of the seventh Directive in 1994, which for the first time provided a common end date, i.e. the last Sunday in October, from 1996 onwards. This Directive brought about a unified calendar 16 years after the adoption of the first Directive. Lastly, the present Directive dating from 2001 extends the provisions of the Directive for an unlimited period.
In 2007, the European Commission presented a report that underlined the importance of maintaining the harmonised timetable to ensure proper functioning of the internal market, which is the main objective of the Directive.
In parallel to the summertime arrangement in the European Union, the Member States apply three different time zones or standard times. The decision on the standard time is a national competence. The standard time is determined in relation to GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
Eight Member States in the Union (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania) apply GMT+2 as their standard time. Three Member States (Ireland, Portugal and United Kingdom) apply GMT and the 17 remaining Member States (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden) apply GMT+1.
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