Cyprus to be split into two time zones from Sunday

From 30 Oct., the time on either side of the Green Line in Cyprus will be an hour apart. A decision by the TRNC Parliament on 8 Sept. to drop Daylight Saving Time (DST) means that unlike the South, clocks in the North will not be going back an hour this Sunday.

The Turkish Cypriot government’s decision to continue with summertime all year round follows a similar announcement in neighbouring Turkey’s Official Gazette on 6 Sept.

By stopping DST, Turks and Turkish Cypriots will no longer set their clocks forward an hour on the last Sunday of March and put them back on the last Sunday in October. Instead they will remain three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time throughout the year, principally to benefit from more daylight for longer in the day. Their decision runs counter to the thinking that first saw DST adopted a century ago.

What is Daylight Saving Time?

William Willett by Elliott & Fry, vintage print, copied 1957.
William Willett by Elliott & Fry, vintage print, copied 1957. © National Portrait Gallery

The concept was first introduced by Briton William Willet. In a pamphlet called “The Waste of Daylight” that he published in 1907, Willet promoted the concept of British Summer Time, urging the nation to change its clocks during the year to prevent wasting valuable daylight hours in the morning during the winter months. Germany was the first country to adopt his proposals, followed a few months later by the UK with its Summer Time Act of 1916.

The practice quickly took hold and over the past century virtually all parts of the world bar Africa adopted DST. However, in recent years its popularity has waned, with DST now mainly used by countries in Europe and North America.

For these more northerly territories, DST helps the day start with more light. Without DST, dawn in large parts of Scotland, for example, would arrive closer to 10am in winter. So while many dislike long dark nights, prior experiences show that more light in the mornings are safer during the winter months.

TRNC time stays in sync with Turkey, not South Cyprus

While there are pros and cons about the use of DST, Turkish Cypriots were given little chance to debate the matter. Two days after Turkey’s official announcement, the UBP-DP coalition government rushed through a motion in the TRNC Parliament to repeal DST, paving the way for North Cyprus to follow Turkey’s lead.

The government argues that there are practical reasons for doing so. TRNC life – government, commercial and cultural – is tied at the hip with Turkey, so it is vital for the two countries, separated by just 40 miles of Mediterranean Sea, to remain in sync with each other. On the flip side, an island which is half the size of Wales is now going to have two time zones.

Confusion is expected to reign this Sunday, when those resident in the North will need to remember to manually re-set their digital clocks on mobile phones and computers, which are programmed to automatically go back an hour in October.

Those with business on the other side of the Green Line will need to remember there will be an hour’s difference. Many people will be affected, include workers and tourists crossing the border, as well as parents doing the school run, and those in need of services with set opening hours such as banks, shops and government buildings.

Questions have also been posed as to what time will operate in the UN buffer zone: North or South Cyprus’ time? Some have suggested a third time zone, 30 minutes apart from either side.

“Time travel” now possible in Cyprus

Plenty of people have taken to social media to show the lighter side of the decision. Mete Morris tweeted that Cypriots can now claim to have “jet-lag” and do “time travel,” and Kon boasted that “Travel in the future just a few km away from my town haha”. Enver Karakaya illustrated the prospect of three time zones in Cyprus.

Harry Theocharous posted a map of Cyprus turned on its side, and tweeted, “#Cyprus to rotate 90 degrees to incorporate bizonal time zone. Forget about GMT, UTC and CET. New one now BTZ”.

The time changes come into affect from Sunday 30 October 2016.

The two Presidents are currently locked in talks to reunite the island, which has been politically split since December 1963 and militarily divided since 1974.