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POLITICS

Clocks go back in Italy despite EU deal on scrapping hour change

The clocks go back this weekend in Italy - but EU-wide disputes mean it’s unclear whether this will be the last change of the hour.

A factory worker moves a clock.
Is it time for Europe to move on from daylight savings time? Italy doesn't think so. Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

European countries move to winter time this weekend, with 3am on Sunday, October 31st, marking the moment when clocks go back by one hour, giving most people an extra lie-in on Sunday morning.

But it remains unclear whether daylight savings will soon be scrapped or if, as Italy hopes, the system will continue.

READ ALSO What changes in Italy in November 2021?

In place in the EU since 1976, the twice-yearly changing of the clocks has been controversial for some time and in 2019 lawmakers in the European Parliament voted by a large majority – 410 MEPs against 192 – in favour of stopping the changing of the hour from 2021.

However, following the vote, Parliament specified that each EU member state would decide whether they would keep summer time or winter time.

In a Europe-wide survey in 2018 some 80 percent of Europeans voted in favour of stopping the clock changes, with most people appearing to prefer to stay on summer time rather than winter time.

Countries overwhelmingly in favour of scrapping the hour change include France and northern European countries, but Italy has filed a formal request that the current system be kept in place.

This is because in southern countries such as Italy or Spain daylight savings actually lengthens the days – and helps people save on their energy bills – while in northern Europe the change doesn’t bring any such benefits, according to Italian media.

Photo: Ludovic MARIN/AFP

The 2021 European deadline for changes however was derailed by Covid which disrupted the normal parliamentary timetables in most countries.

And as normal political life resumes a further problem has emerged – although EU countries agree on scrapping the hour change, they cannot agree on whether to stick with summer or winter time.

There have been suggestions that the continent could be divided into blocs – with countries like Italy which favour daylight saving time allowed to keep it, and others scrapping the system.

But having many different EU countries in different time zones would create all sorts of practical problems for business and trade, not to mention the substantial number of cross-border workers who live in one EU country and work in another.

Green MEP Karima Delli told French TV channel BFM: “The ball is in the court of the Member States.

“We agree on the time change, but what really blocks us is: do we stay on summer time or winter time? This is a real problem because the Member States cannot agree.”

She underlined “indirect problems on connectivity, on transport… All this must be organised”, adding: “If I am French and I work in Germany, I am not going to change my watch in the morning and in the evening. We really need harmonisation.”

With clocks slipping down the political agenda in favour of more urgent problems, it seems unlikely that this weekend will be the last time the clocks change in Italy.

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POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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