Time Zone:Central European Time, CET
UTC offset:UTC +1:00
Time Zone Abbreviation:CET
Overview and Examination
This time zone is located just one hour ahead of Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) and is used by most of the countries in the European Union. This time zone is used by Europe, Africa, and Antarctica. Known as Central European Time, it changes to Central European Summer Time during Daylight Saving Time in the summer.
We’ll begin by listing the countries that use this time zone, then explain in more detail what makes up the European Union and its countries. By the end of this, you’ll have a detailed understanding of the time zone and the countries within it.
Popular Time Zones
Locations within the CET Zone
The following locations in Europe are all within the CET Time Zone.
- Czech Republic
- Denmark (mainland)
- Holy See/Vatican City
- Macedonia, Republic of
- San Marino
- Spain - except Canary Islands, which are on WET/WEST
There are two countries in Africa that use CET all year:
Several other time zones exist in the same offset, but they have different names. They are listed below:
- A - Alpha Time Zone
This is a military time zone used for aviation purposes. It is used over the sea between the longitudes of 7.5 degrees East and 22.5 degrees East. The letter “A” is used to designate this time zone, along with military time.
- BST - British Summer Time
This time zone is used by the United Kingdom’s main islands and the Isle of Man.
- IST - Irish Standard Time
This one hour offset from UTC is used exclusively in the country of Ireland.
- WAT - West Africa Time
This time zone is used by several countries in Africa and is switched out with West Africa Summer Time (WAST) during Daylight Saving Time.
- WEST - Western European Summer Time
When western European countries like the Canary Islands, the Faroe Islands, and Portugal move to summer time, they enter the hour offset that falls into this zone. The African countries of Morocco and the Western Sahara also follow this time zone during the summer months.
- WST - Western Sahara Summer Time
In Africa, El Aaiun uses this time zone all year, which is one hour ahead of UTC.
A Timeline of CET’s Usage Throughout History
The time around the world is based off of Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) which is roughly close to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Since 1997, much of the clocks in the United Kingdom have been moved an hour forward from UTC to be a part of British Summer Time. Below is a timeline of the CET Zone’s adoption throughout Europe:
- 1890 - Croatia and Hungary adopted this time standard
- 1891 - Czech Republic began using it.
- 1893 - The German Empire unified its time zones to CET, Italy and Malta, in addition to Austria start using CET.
- 1894 - Switzerland moved from UTC+00:30 to CET. Liechtenstein and Denmark started using CET,
- 1895 - Norway joined the fold
- 1900 - Sweden adopted CET
- 1904 - Luxembourg started using CET but stopped in 1918
- 1914 - Albania joined
- 1914-1918 - World War I saw CET set in all German territories
- 1920 - Lithuania adopted it, but stopped in 1940
- 1922 - Poland Joined
- 1940 - German occupation set The Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, in addition to France to CET.
After WWII, Monaco, Spain, Andorra, and Gibraltar started using CET. Until the year 1918 these changes were made through the rule of the German Empire which consisted of 27 countries, most of which were ruled by royal families. The largest member of the empire was the Kingdom of Prussia.
There were three major rivals of the empire: Imperial Russia in the east, France to the west, and Austria-Hungary to the south-east. During the 47 years that the empire was in existence, it was a massive beacon of industry, technology, and science. During this time its residents earned more Nobel Prizes than Britain, France, Russia, and the United States combined. Germany quickly ascended to the status of a great power as it built up a rail network, an army, and a strong industrial economy.
The concept of a great power involves a sovereign state that has the ability to influence global matters. The term is used both casually, and at specific conferences. The empire eventually collapsed in the November 1918 Revolution. At the end of the First World War, Germany fell into a civil conflict which ended with the imperial government being overthrown. It was replaced by a republic.
The revolution started to take hold when Germany lost the First World War which brought the social tensions already in the air to a head. Now we’ll look at a more modern coalition that has been in place since 1957 called the European Union.
An Overview of The European Union
There are a total of 28 member states in the European Union. Each of these countries are given certain privileges and obligations as a part of this membership. At the formation of the union, a set of treaties were signed by the member states to outline the rules and allowances the countries had as a member.
There are two core treaties: the Treaty on European Union which was signed in Maastricht in 1992, and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which was signed in Rome in the year 1958. There are a number of smaller treaties and amendments that have followed in the years since the formation of the union.
The union is different than international organizations in the sense that these states are under laws binding them in exchange for representation. They are still mostly free to do as they please. A major focus of the union is a concept known as Subsidiarity. This concept originated in the Roman Catholic church and represents a principle of social organization.
In a simple description, it is the thought that social issues should be dealt with at the most immediate (or local) level consistent with their solution. Looking at the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition is as follows:
“The idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.”
It all began in 1957 when six core states founded the European Economic Community. The newest member of the union is Croatia. In order to join the union, the state must fulfill a set of political and economic requirements known as the Copenhagen criteria. These requirements are listed below:
- The state must have institutions that preserve democratic governance and human rights
- It must have a fully functioning market economy
- Finally, it must accept the obligations and intents of the union
An excerpt from the Copenhagen Presidency conclusions is displayed below which goes into more detail:
“Membership requires that candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.”
While the member states vary in size, wealth, and political systems, they all enjoy equal rights as part of the union. While some territories have left, no states have withdrawn or been suspended from the union since its creation.
The Central European Time Zone is filled with countries and history that spans across time. These countries are so different from one another, and yet through the ashes of two World Wars, the region has come together to form a union that is both strong and equally attentive to its members.
While there are certainly conflicts to be found in this part of the world, like any other, but the way they’ve come together is certainly something to be admired. Ultimately, a time zone can only do so much to unite an area. As we saw, the German Empire tried to unite everyone forcibly under a single time zone and that didn’t work.
Time zones are a finicky concept because they work best when everyone is on the same page, so to speak. In many cases, only portions of countries or specific areas use time zones, and with multiple names for the same offset, it can get confusing. In the end though, this kind of method for creating civil time is the best possible option.
The usefulness of Daylight Saving Time remains to be seen, but in the meantime, these time zones are here to stay. Perhaps one day there will be changes made to bring everything into a more uniform standard.