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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

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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