The Netherlands introduced summer time in 1977 to match the neighboring countries. Summer time and winter time are an agreement of the European Union. In almost all countries in Europe, the clocks go forward an hour in March. But now there has been criticism for years: shouldn’t we get rid of it?
European Parliament agreed
In 2019, the European Parliament agreed to abolish it after a long period of haggling. 2021 would be the last year in which the clock would be moved back in the EU. But: Member States must decide for themselves what the new standard time will be. And therein lies a problem.
Then Minister Ollongren of the Interior had it checked out. What would it mean if the Netherlands opted for permanent winter time or summer time? In short, winter time is healthier for people, but summer time is safer for traffic.
A frequently mentioned point is the energy saving: because of the summer time, the lamps can be switched on an hour later in the evening. But Ollongren called the resulting savings ‘minimal’. The study does not provide a clear picture of which time system it should be.
If it were only about health, a system without changes is preferable. “For health, according to RIVM, it is important to match our natural time zone as much as possible and also to maintain a permanent time,” the minister wrote.
As a chronobiologist at the University of Groningen (RUG), Marijke Gordijn knows how important biorhythms are for the human body. “Changing the time is not healthy. When choosing a standard time, it is better to have more light in the morning.”
With permanent summer time you get up in the dark for a large part of the year and it is light longer in the evening. “That disrupts your biological clock and your sleep. Winter time is better in that respect, but our biological clock is best off with the ‘English’ time zone, the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).”
Scientists agree: GMT, so one hour earlier than the current winter time, is actually the time zone that belongs to us. Just like in Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Spain. Curtain: “Germany is further east, so for them winter time is actually the right time zone. It wouldn’t be weird to stick to the time zones that suit us.”
The facts are there, experts agree, but ultimately it is a political choice, says Curtain. “In fact, politics had started well. There is a good report, but it has disappeared in the drawer. Nothing is done with it for unclear reasons. And that is a pity.”
Someone who has also made a huge effort to abolish the summer and winter time regulations is Annie Schreijer-Pierik. She has been a member of the European Parliament on behalf of the CDA since 2014. “Brussels has been agreeing to this for years, so it has to happen in The Hague,” she says in a response.
The EU ministers must agree among themselves what the right time should be. “But to be honest, I do understand that it is not a priority at the moment. They do have other things on their mind, there is something more going on in the Netherlands and the world.”
In the fridge
The government has previously stated that it considers it important that time in the Netherlands and in the countries around us remains the same as much as possible. That is practical for the economy and trade. “That is why the cabinet will only take a position once it is clear what neighboring countries are doing”, the government website states.
In any case, the Netherlands wants to harmonize its system in the future with neighboring countries Belgium and Germany, but also with Luxembourg and France.
“It is not a priority for the European member states. Nothing has happened at all for two years,” says political reporter Fons Lambie. “Several EU presidents have not put the subject on the agenda. Member states consider other matters more important. It is also very complicated to arrange: which time do you choose? And how do you prevent things from applying differently per European country? An idea actually on the ice.”
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