A Romanian official says 17,000 people with disabilities living in special state institutions will gradually be moved into families, a step that will take the country closer to European norms.

Labor Minister Rovana Plumb says the process would take five years using 700 million euros ($780 million) of European Union funds.

Plump said Thursday that "we want to send a clear message about ... implementing a modern European vision regarding people with disabilities," adding the state would stop financing the institutions.

She didn't provide further details such as what would happen to people with severe disabilities who require constant medical care.

The 1989 collapse of communism revealed more than 100,000 orphans living in often squalid conditions. Many children were abandoned because of disabilities or the costs associated with raising them.