EU farm ministers have agreed on a plan to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, following two days of what were described as very difficult negotiations.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, who chaired the talks, said he now had a strong mandate to negotiate with the European Parliament and finalise agreement before the end of June.

While two countries did not sign up to the plan - Slovenia and Slovakia - only a qualified majority was required for the plan to proceed.

Slovenia and Slovakia argued they did not achieve a fair return in the negotiations.

The deal has involved three years of talks.

The European Commission praised the Irish Presidency of the EU Council for securing agreement, but said a number of elements remain unacceptable.

It is particularly concerned about internal convergence - a move towards common area payments.

Other difficult issues at these talks included sugar quotas, the extent to which member states will have flexibility in implementing greening measures, and the penalties which should apply for failing to comply with those regulations.