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Austria, in the first of four national referendums on the future makeup of the European Union, has come out massively in favor of joining the 12-nation bloc.

By voting two-to-one Sunday in favor of joining on Jan. 1, 1995, the Austrians seem to have helped prospects that the voters in the other three applicants, Finland, Norway and Sweden, will follow suit in referendums later this year.But the good news was not matched in voting for an enlarged 567-seat European Parliament where government and other mainstream parties were badly mauled by voters who switched allegiance to what one parliamentarian called "quirky" groups.

The number of Austrians favoring EU membership should help pro-EU campaigners in the three Nordic states, where public opinion polls at best show a narrow majority in favor.

"Austria has stood its crucial test on Europe. The door to a bigger Europe is nowopen," President Thomas Klestil said.

"The referendum result in Austria shows that despite Europe's problems, other peoples still want to join us in this beautiful adventure," European Commission President Jacques Delors said.

In Britain, the Conservative Party of Prime Minister John Major was trounced in the European Parliament poll by the opposition Labor Party, which was expected to take 62 of the 87 British seats at stake in the Strasbourg-based assembly.

In France, the opposition Socialists had their worst result in decades. The vote was fragmented by maverick anti-Maastricht crusader Philippe de Villiers and center-left soccer boss Bernard Tapie, whose lists of candidates each took more than 12 percent of the vote.

The fragmentation of the vote could create difficulties in the enlarged parliament, EP political group leaders said.

"We will see many more splinter groups coming out in the parliament and so it will be much more difficult to manage," Jean-Pierre Cot, leader of the Socialist group in the EP, said.

"There will be serious changes," the Christian Democrat group leader, Leo Tindemans, said.

Predictions early Monday showed the Socialists will stay the biggest group with about 199 seats, far fewer than the 230 they had anticipated in the vote, which is held every five years.

The Christian Democrats dropped as many as 14 seats but will still be the second-biggest grouping with about 148 seats.

The big question is how as many as 100 MEPs from unattached parties will line up. Italy alone has more than a dozen mavericks.