This weekend, Belgium will once again change the clocks from summer to winter time, meaning that at 3:00 AM on Sunday, the clocks will go back one hour, gifting us all an extra hour of sleep if we so choose.
The bi-annual habit of changing every clock around the house always prompts the question:
"Didn’t we stop changing the clocks?"
Again, the answer is:
"No, not yet."
Introduced in the late 1970s, the seasonal time change was conceived as an effort to give people brighter days, limit the use of artificial lighting and thus achieve energy savings. But things have come a long way in 40 years and efforts to drop the practice are brought back into the spotlight each time around.
Criticism has focused on perceived negative effects on health, including mini “jetlags” (jetlag syndrome), which impact children and the elderly in particular. Critics also cite an increased number of traffic accidents due to poor visibility and fatigue.
In 2018, the European Commission proposed ending the seasonal time change, with surveys carried out in Member States showing that a large part of Europeans was supportive of this change. However, Member States were unable to come to an agreement on the matter and the time change system has stayed in place since. But should they wish, Member States can decide individually to drop the time change.
Now, in 2021, little has changed, with the finger of blame is being pointed squarely at the ongoing pandemic, and the subsequent recovery.
"Apparently, there is not a single Member State that has officially communicated its preference for winter or summer time," European MP Hilde Vautmans told Radio 1 earlier this year.
“The European Commissioner has been clear: there is no indication that the legislation on the abolition of the time change will come into force in the coming years. So this is not the last time that we will experience daylight saving time,” said Vautmans. "Of course, the Member States and the EU had other priorities such as the corona crisis, the vaccination campaigns and the economic recovery."
So, where does Belgium stand?
In a survey commissioned by the Belgian Prime Minister’s Office, the majority of the Belgian population (83%) was shown to be in favour of stopping the seasonal time change in general. As for ‘season’, 50% of respondents expressed a preference for wintertime while 45% were in favour of summertime.
"It's a pertinent issue that everyone has a view on. I say clearly: let's discuss this," Vautmans explained. "But it will take a while before time changes."
So, providing nothing changes, the clocks will change again in March.