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Spain looks set to drop its fascist-inspired extra hour

More than 70 years after Franco set Spain's clocks to sync with Hitler's Germany, a Spanish parliamentary commission recommends realigning with the Brits.

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A worker (c.) took a nap beside a fast-food restaurant in Madrid in July 2012. A parliamentary commission is set to approve a report that recommends switching Spain's time zone back to that of Britain, which experts say will dramatically improve Spanish eating, sleeping, and working habits.

Andres Kudacki/AP/File

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Could synchronizing Spain's time with Big Ben in London – and doing away with trademark Spanish siestas – boost Iberian productivity and quality of life? Spaniards may be set to find out.

After almost three-quarters of a century of setting its clocks to match Central Europe, which runs an hour earlier than countries sharing the Iberian longitudes, Spain looks likely to shift its time zone back to a more natural hour.

A parliamentary commission, businesses, and civil society groups have all asked the government to study the possibility of correcting an almost 75-year-old anachronism. And the Popular Party government said last week it will seriously consider it.

“The official time doesn’t coincide at all with the solar time. We wake up too early and sleep almost an hour less than recommended," said a parliamentary report on ways to improve productivity and quality of life in Spain. The report, nine months in the making with the input from 60 experts, found the time shift "is detrimental to productivity, labor absence, stress, work accidents, and school dropout rates.”

A Spanish anachronism

Confirming that the government was already studying the implications, Economy Minister Luis de Guindos explained that “from a geographic point of view, there is a divergence between current time and the one that corresponds” Spain.

Spain’s natural time zone is that of Britain and Portugal. But in 1940, dictator Francisco Franco, in an effort to showcase Spain’s sympathies with Germany, changed to the Central European time zone, following Adolf Hitler’s decision to align French time with that of Berlin.

Though symbolic in intent, the practical effects of the unnatural time zone are profound. Sunrise and sunsets come later in Spain. So does lunch, the end of the workday, prime time on television, and more.

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