The eurozone has climbed out of recession with better-than-expected growth of 0.3 percent in the second quarter led by Germany and France, the European Union has said.

Data agency Eurostat said on Wednesday that the 18-month downturn which has cost millions of jobs and crushed debt-laden governments around the single currency area ended thanks in large part to better-than-expected gains of 0.7 percent in Germany and 0.5 percent in France.

"A sustained recovery is now within reach but only if we persevere on all fronts of our crisis response," EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

The 17 countries sharing the euro needed seven quarters to return to growth of 0.3 percent, on a seasonally adjusted basis, in the three months to June, Eurostat showed.

Al Jazeera's Nick Spicer reports from Poland.

Confirming a fragmented picture of the rebound, Spain's economy fell by 0.1 percent on the quarter, while Italy and the Netherlands both dropped by 0.2 percent. 

Portugal on fastest growth

According to Eurostat, bailed eurozone peer Portugal posted a 1.1 percent expansion, showing the fastest growth in the eurozone in the three months to June.

Portugal’s National Statistics Institute said stronger economic activity in the period was due to higher exports and an easing of previous contraction in investment.

The economy fell in the second quarter by 0.7 percent, compared with the same period last year, with the market anticipating a 0.8 percent decline.

The single currency area, however, now faces an uneven and bumpy recovery dented by record high joblessness and belt-tightening austerity in peripheral countries, which need to speed up market reforms, boost growth and create new jobs.

Source: Agencies