Finland adopted Eastern European Time (GMT+2), highlighted in yellow on the map, in May 1921.The removal of daylight saving time and change of time zone would be difficult to carry out, views Hannu Pennanen, a senior adviser at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Timo Partonen, a research professor at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), proposed in Monday's edition of Helsingin Sanomat that Finland adopt the same time zone as Central Europe and abandon daylight saving time in an attempt to create considerable health benefits and increase the well-being of Finns.

Daylight saving time was instituted in Finland in 1981 and is currently based on binding directives of the European Union, according to Pennanen.

“As far as I know not a single member state has been granted an exemption from it. The directive would have to be revoked or changed in order for Finland to be able to stop switching to summer time. Changing the directive would, at the very least, require a qualified majority decision from the member states. It hasn't been subject to any serious discussion of late,” Pennanen points out.

The time zone, in turn, is determined based on the geographical location of Finland. Time zones were established in an international conference organised in Washington as early as in 1884, while Finland adopted its current time zone in May 1921.

Pennanen estimates that a change of time zone would necessitate legislative changes. “I seriously doubt that it's politically possible. It may also be associated with various international commitments that would have to be looked into. The matter is by no means clear and unambiguous,” he estimates.

A change of time zone has occasionally been the subject of public debate also in other countries. In Spain, for example, a proposal to revert to the original time zone of the country was presented in 2013. The country adopted Central European Time in 1942 upon a decision by its autocratic ruler, Francisco Franco.

North Korea, meanwhile, announced in August that it has created its own time zone by setting back the clock by 30 minutes.

Pennanen declines to comment specifically on the proposal of Partonen but reminds that both the time zone and daylight saving time also have their benefits for Finland. Morning flights to Central Europe, for example, can be scheduled in a way that allows policy-makers to make it to EU meetings on time.

He also reminds that a number of studies both for and against daylight saving time have been carried out.

“It has yet to be concluded that [daylight saving time] is exclusively beneficial or harmful. Partonen is surely more familiar with the health effects, but summer time also reduces the incidence of elk-vehicle collisions in Finland because light extends later into the evening. Aspects such as that should also be taken into account,” says Pennanen.

He nonetheless believes the European Union will re-consider daylight saving time at some point in time. “It's removal could be proposed at some point because the society has changed, and the health effects will surely be re-evaluated if necessary.”

Heidi Asplund – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Illustration: Wikimedia Commons