Across Europe, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is causing excess deaths, placing a burden on societies and health systems, and harming the economy. Yet, European governments still have to develop a common vision to guide the management of the pandemic. Overwhelming evidence shows that not only public health, but also society and the economy benefit greatly from low COVID-19 case numbers. Vaccines will help control the virus, but not until late 2021. If we do not act now, further waves of infection are to be expected, with consequential further damage to health, society, jobs and businesses. Given open borders within Europe, a single country alone cannot keep the number of COVID-19 cases low; thus joint action and common goals among countries are essential. We, therefore, call for a strong, coordinated European response and clearly defined medium- and long-term goals.