The eurozone climbed out of recession at last with better-than-expected growth of 0.3 percent in the second quarter led by Germany and France, the European Union said on Wednesday. Data agency Eurostat said the 18-month downturn which has cost millions of jobs and crushed debt-laden governments ended thanks largely to surprise gains of 0.7 percent in Germany and 0.5 percent in France. Analysts had tipped a 0.2-percent increase for the 17-nation bloc, home to some 340 million people who have struggled through six consecutive quarters of falling output. Behind the headline gains, the third- and fourth-largest eurozone economies of Italy and Spain pulled up short, with their economies shrinking 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively. The Netherlands also shrank once more, by 0.2 percent in the second quarter, but bailed-out Portugal posted a strong return with 1.1 percent growth. No figures were immediately available for bailed-out Greece or Ireland, both also bailed out during the debt crisis. But Portuguese authorities said that Portugal, also under a rescue programme, emerged from recession with growth of 1.1 percent in the quarter from output in the first quarter. Eurostat noted that comparable figures for the United States and Japan came in at 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.