To an outsider here in Brussels, Britain’s stance toward Europe is utterly incomprehensible.

Like it or not, the European Union is the largest market in the world, while the unification process has ensured that, for the first time in our continent’s history, war is just a distant memory of the past, not a bleak prospect for the future.

Take every issue that really matters to our troubled world, from environmental protection to human rights, democracy and peace, and you will see that Europe is a global leader and a prominent force for good.

Missed opportunities

The UK could play a leading role in the process of reforming and strengthening the EU, possibly the leading role.

But under the Conservatives, the UK has already given up on this prospect, almost as if this economic and political giant right on its shores didn’t exist.

No matter what Prime Minister David Cameron says in his Europe speech this Friday, the ugly truth is that for diplomats, lobbyists and the media in Brussels, the UK has not just failed to capitalise on its potential, but has already assumed an “observer status” in the EU.

Update on 17 January, 9PM: British Prime minister has cancelled his Amsterdam speech on EU following the hostage crisis in Southern Algeria. — Presseurop