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Debate rages on over Spanish time zones as clocks go forward tonight: Would GMT really make a difference to working life?
SPAIN joins the rest of Europe in turning its clocks forward tonight (Saturday) – or rather at 02.00 on Sunday morning – as the debate continues on whether the country should drop back an hour to join the UK, Portugal and Morocco in their earlier time zone.
Experts in physics have recently refuted the ongoing assumption that Spain is an hour ahead of its geographic time because dictator General Franco wanted to align the clocks with his allies in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, saying it was in fact an agreement made with French president Général Charles de Gaulle to streamline inter-European communications.
And they do not agree that Spain 'acts as though it is jet-lagged', recalling that many other parts of Europe – such as western France, Belgium and The Netherlands – are in the wrong time zone and should be on GMT in winter and BST in summer, but that their inhabitants have, like Spain, adapted accordingly.
The 'jet lag' would explain a great deal about Spain's rather unique daily routine – shops rarely open much before 10.00; lunch starts between around 13.30 and 15.00, and evening dinner is somewhere between 20.00 and 21.00 in winter and as late as 23.00 in summer – and tourists mistakenly stay off the beach at noon to avoid the 'midday sun' when, in fact, due to the clock change, this would be at 13.00, but in Spain is at 14.00.
But those in favour of reverting to GMT – especially as the Meridian line runs through the province of Alicante along the east coast – claim doing so would improve the work-life balance for burnt-out Spaniards.
Getting up earlier in the morning would mean leaving work earlier in the day, and with it getting dark sooner, people would tend to pack up work, go home, eat and go to bed earlier, they say.
Scientists, however, say this has nothing to do with GMT versus CET, given that Spanish patterns of life are not seen in CET zones of France and Belgium which should, correctly, be in GMT.
This is more a question of organisation – cutting the long lunch break, which leads to shop and office closures of up to four-and-a-half hours and employees too far from home to go back for lunch having to hang around town finding something to do all afternoon – would mean workers could finish at 18.00 or earlier instead of at 21.00; prime-time TV shows should be moved to earlier slots, then Spain would become more productive in fewer working hours and enjoy quality sleep and home, family and leisure time.
To further complicate Spain's 'battle of the hours', the north-western region of Galicia wants to be on GMT like Portugal, directly due south of its border, whilst the Balearic Islands want to go forward an extra hour to boost the summer tourism industry.
Getting dark an hour earlier in summer than it does now would be disastrous for those living off holidaymakers, and getting dark an hour later than now would mean even more time year-round for visitors and locals to enjoy the outdoors, claims the Balearic regional government.
Balearic winter mornings are still dark and in summer, the sun rises up to an hour after either happen in Galicia, meaning the GMT-CET time-zone border should in fact run right down the mainland.
The Canary Islands are on GMT, making Spain one of just two European countries with more than one official national time zone, since mainland Portugal is an hour ahead of its Azores islands.
Time lags exist between the British Isles and Gibraltar, and between mainland France and Britain and their overseas territories in the tropics, but these distant holdings are technically colonies rather than 'part of the country' in the literal sense, even though natives hold French and British passports respectively.
Greenland, owned by Denmark rather than a country in its own right, is in a different time zone, although Greenland is geographically on the American rather than Eurasian techtonic plate, so is not physically within Europe.
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