Top eurocrat Jean-Claude Juncker’s bid to abolish seasonal clock changes within the EU were branded unrealistic by transport ministers in the first sign of public descent for the plans.
The European Commission President’s signature policy, which is mainly backed by Germany, would have seen Europe stop changing its clocks in October 2019, creating a permanent summer or winter time.
But a number of sceptical EU member states have criticised the proposed timeline, insisting the change will leave businesses and citizens unprepared for the huge policy shift.
Austrian transport minister Norbert Hofer, who hosted his 27 EU counterparts in Graz, questioned whether Mr Juncker’s rushed through policy would receive the support of a majority of member states.
Mr Hofer said: “If we aim to do this in 2019, as the European Commission suggested, this will not be supported by the majority of member states.”
He, instead, suggested Brussels’ powerful executive hold off on their plans and look at the summer of 2021 for its potential implementation.
Britain, Sweden and Poland are amongst the most vocal of the member states, who are currently opposed to Mr Juncker’s plans.
Mr Hofer said: “Three countries were sceptical and one was concerned that we could end up with a patchwork of different times zones.”
Airlines were amongst the major businesses who had raised their own questions about abolishing the twice-yearly clock change.
They would need more time to make necessary technical preparations, according to Mr Hofer.
“For example, the airline industry tells us they need at least 18 months to prepare,” he said.
Brexit was also mentioned as the possibility of a time border being created between Northern Ireland and Great Britain remains given the uncertainty surrounding negotiations on Britain’s EU departure.
“We must also be careful that we don’t end up with a patchwork of time zones,” Mr Hofer added.
Luxembourg’s transport minister Fancois Bausch said it would be a “catastrophe” for his country to be locked in a different timezone from Belgium, France and Germany.
This is because half of Luxembourg’s workforce commute into the country and require a harmonised system with its neighbours, according to Mr Bausch.
Danish transport minister Ole Birk Olesen said his country would require a full public debate and therefore cannot comply with the 2019 timetable.
He said: “There is not much awareness about the fact that it will have costs whatever we choose.”
Last month, Mr Juncker announced the Commission would press on with its plans after an EU-wide poll found 84 percent of the 4.6 million participants supported abolishing the twice-yearly clock change.
But the poll’s results were somewhat skewed because they represented less than one percent of the EU’s population and most respondents were from Germany.