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Finland turns clocks forward, possibly for second-to-last time

Finland switched to summer time at 3am Sunday. Officials are pushing to keep standard time year round starting in 2021.

Kaksi herätyskelloa, toinen kesä- ja toinen talviajassa.
The European Parliament voted on 26 March to end clock changes. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Hands on Finnish clocks will be moved one hour forward overnight as the country switches to daylight saving time ahead of spring. The official transition takes place at 3 am on Sunday, 31 March.

The country won't return back to standard time until late October, when clocks will again be set one hour later.

Finland has followed the twice-yearly custom of switching clocks since 1981. In Europe, the practice was adopted one year earlier, in 1980.

MEPs decide to end clock fiddling

Members of the European Parliament decided this week to scrap daylight saving time starting in 2021. The final directive still needs to be approved by the EU Council of Ministers. Finland is hoping this decision will be reached before the year is out, while it is still in possession of the rotating EU Presidency.

It is now down to the individual EU countries to decide whether to stay on standard or daylight saving time permanently. The countries have until the end of the year to make their decision, if not sooner.

"There are now three time zones in use in the EU and in Finland's view, this should be the maximum amount moving forward as well. We don't want a Europe that is fragmented into several time zones," says Maria Rautavirta, a specialist at the transport and communications ministry.

Finland has already submitted its preference in early February, when the EU ministerial committee of the government told the EU that it would prefer to stay on standard time.

Despite indicating this early preference, the Finnish authorities say they do not want to rule out other options if it will help the progress of negotiations.

"We'll naturally monitor what our neighbouring countries and the larger nations of the EU decide for their time zones," Rautavirta says.

At present, the Baltic countries, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria share the same time zone as Finland. Sweden joins the countries in central Europe in a zone that is one hour behind Finland, and Britain, Ireland and Portugal are among the countries that are two hours behind.

Permanent standard time starting in 2021?

If the EU council approves the directive still this year, Finland can start preparing its own legislation on a permanent time zone already in early 2020.

As things look now, Finland will adopt standard time year round starting in 2021. A poll from late 2018 found that over half of Finnish residents felt that this alternative, also known as winter time, was a better option.

If the legislation follows the normal schedule, the Finnish Parliament would decide on the new permanent time zone in late 2020 and the new law would come into force in 2021.

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