Summer time returns to two Baltic states

  • 2002-04-04
  • Aleksei Gunter

The clock turned one hour ahead at midnight on March 30 for most countries in Europe - but not all three Baltic states.

As time stayed still in Lithuania, Latvian and Estonian clocks made the change. Now Lithuania shares Central European time with its neighbor Poland, while Estonia shares the same time as Latvia and Finland.

Of the three countries, however, it's Estonia that's doing something different this year. Last year, together with Lithuania, it refused to put the clocks forward.

Once abandoned by Mart Laar's Cabinet in 2000, the summer time shift became a hot political issue.

Concerns about the lack of daylight hours made some public and private companies defy the government last summer and start their day an hour earlier.

Eventually, Estonian residents demanded that daylight saving time be brought back, and the new government approved that idea on Feb. 29 this year. On Oct. 27, 2002, the clocks will be turned one hour back again.

Now it seems the only protests against the time switch are coming from the physiology institute of Tartu University. Selma Teesalu, professor emeritus of human physiology, insists the time switch is against the natural human biorhythm.

Adults can live with that, she says, but children and older people can feel some discomfort.

The idea to switch to summer time originated after World War I in order to cut down on electricity consumption. For Estonia, the annual sum saved thanks to the time switch barely makes five million kroons ($290,000), which, according to Eesti Energia is ridiculous money in the overall scale, and cannot change the habits of consumers.

The pros of daylight saving time also include a shorter pause between sunset and going to bed, which besides leading to more modest electricity consumption, also has a positive influence on crime and traffic accident rates.

Laurits Leedjarv, head of Tartu Observatory, supports Teesalu, but gives a different reason as to why Estonia can easily get rid of daylight saving time.

"In Northern Europe the days in summer are long anyway," he said.

Private transport companies will obviously benefit from the time shift.

For example, if Estonia hadn't turned the clocks forward, the first flight to Helsinki would take off at 5:20 a.m. A passenger would have to be at the airport at 4:30 a.m., and the airline company would have to pay the higher, night-time rate to airport personnel.

In accordance with the ninth directive of the Council of Europe on daylight saving hours, all members of the European Union are committed to sticking with daylight saving time for the next five years.