Time-zone debate hots up ahead of weekend clock change: Should Spain set its watches by London, Berlin…or Kiev?

time-zoneTHE debate over Spain’s ‘ideal’ time zone is hotting up even after the government told the Balearic Islands it had no chance of keeping the clocks as they currently are, on CEST (Central European Summertime) – now, the region of Valencia wants to do likewise, whilst the pro-GMT association ARHOE is determined the hands of the clock should go in the opposite direction.
Meanwhile, a profession of physics at Sevilla University says the entire discussion is ‘scientifically sterile’ and ‘pointless’.

Spain is, geographically, in the same time zone as the UK, Morocco and Portugal – the Greenwich Meridian line runs through the province of Zaragoza and in Pego in the northernmost tip of that of Alicante (pictured), both in the east of the mainland – but in practice, only the Canary Islands, which are west of Morocco, are on GMT in winter and BST in summer.

This permanent ‘jet lag’ dates back to the year 1940 when dictator General Franco wanted Spain on the same time as his allies in Berlin.

ARHOE has been campaigning for years to put Spain back to the hour it should be on, and centre-right political party Ciudadanos is keen to do so.

But for the first time, a counter-movement has launched – at least two Mediterranean regions are not only against going back to GMT, but want to be two hours ahead of it instead of one.

Keeping summer hours would mean lighter evenings, allowing residents to enjoy outdoor activities for longer, Valencia has now argued.

It would also be better for business, Valencia says, coinciding with the Balearic Islands’ view: shops would be more likely to get customers in the evenings if they were lighter, because people tend to gravitate homewards when it is dark instead of enjoying the last few rays of sun.

Also, it would help tourism, since during warm winters, visitors would be able to stay on the beach or outside for longer, meaning holidays in Spain would not be focused entirely on the late spring and summer months.

Finally, it would save energy as lights would not need to go on until later.

Regional president of Galicia – where it gets dark earliest in Spain – Alberto Núñez Feijóo (PP) says he would not support the Balearic-Valencian CEST request.

“I’m not at all in favour of having one time zone for the Mediterranean, one for Madrid and one for Galicia and the Basque Country,” Núñez Feijóo stressed.

Galicia’s pro-GMT stance has been going on longer than that of the rest of Spain, because of its location.

“I’m Spanish, not Portuguese,” Feijóo added.

“But I would be happy to open a debate about a time-zone change for the whole of Spain; just not with different regions on different hours.

Dr José María Martín, physics professor at the University of Sevilla, says it is ‘ridiculous’ to talk about changing Spain’s time zone when it has been in the same one for 76 years.

“People in Spain have got used to doing certain things at certain times of the day – you might be able to change the clock, but you can’t change nature,” Dr Martín stresses.

“There will still be the same number of hours of daylight no matter what.

“What’s the point in fighting our body clocks, finishing work at 18.00 and then being in bed by 23.00 after dinner and a bit of TV, meaning the average working Spaniard gets over eight-and-a-half hours of sleep a night?

“Throughout Europe, everyone typically eats dinner around three hours after finishing work at night, so mealtimes are dictated by working timetables, not time zones.

“You don’t need to put Spain back onto GMT to change working hours. An hour for lunch is enough whatever time zone you’re in.”

In autumn and winter in Spain, it gets dark at around 18.00, although this varies slightly with the difference between the Balearics in the Mediterranean and the far north-western region of Galicia, just above Portugal, is around an hour.

Daybreak is normally at around 06.30 or 07.00 in winter.

Keeping CEST so that the sun rises at 07.30 to 08.00 and it is still light until around 19.00 would mean Spain was in the same time zone as Kiev (Ukraine).

Published Think Spain29 October 2016

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