BRUSSELS—The European Union has started withholding money from Poland and Hungary, escalating the fight above democratic standards that is deepening the East-West divide in the bloc.

The EU and most governments in its Western region are anxious about lawful adjustments by Poland and Hungary that they assume are eroding the rule of law, weakening judicial independence, and breaching human rights. They are particularly alarmed by an energy by Warsaw to assert the primacy of Polish law above EU law and court selections.

The two nations, which are amid the most important net recipients of European revenue, say the strain from Brussels signifies an ideological assault on their values and an endeavor by unelected officers to curtail the rights of member countries to form their individual political methods and laws.

The EU has experienced disputes for several years with Poland and Hungary above concerns this sort of as gay rights, which are scorching-button matters in numerous former communist countries. Conservative voters and politicians in the region have argued that considering that becoming a member of the bloc in 2004, Brussels has significantly made use of its powers to impose Western European social values above local norms.

The European Commission’s battle with Poland above judicial independence is individual from these disputes. Brussels officers argue that Poland’s initiatives to disregard EU court selections and challenge laws could established precedents that undermine bloc-huge rules—such as all those governing the one market—and defang the supranational courts that law enforcement EU law.