The overall aims of the Little Entente and the Balkan Entente, taken together, were the preservation of the territorial status quo, established by the treaties of Versailles, Saint-Germain, Trianon, and Neuilly, against the efforts of Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Bulgaria to have those treaties revised; the prevention of Anschluss, or union, between Germany and Austria; and the encouragement of closer economic ties among its members. The Little Entente was successful in its aims until the rise of Hitler in Germany, when French prestige was gradually displaced by German economic penetration and political pressure. It began to break apart in 1936 and was effectively ended when Czechoslovakia lost its membership by the formation of the Munich Pact (1938).
The Little Entente began to break down in 1936 and disbanded completely in 1938. France had seen the Little Entente as an opportunity, in the interests of French security, to revitalize the threat of a two-front war against Germany.
The first attempts seeking a mutual defense of the successor states of the Austria-Hungary took place at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. The most remarkable and ardent proponent of the certain alliance binding the successor states was Edvard Beneš who served as Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia from 1918 to 1935. Beneš played the crucial role in establishing the Little Entente to such extent, that he was regarded as its real founder (Zeman and Klimek 1997: 89) The Project of this alliance also clearly reflected his belief in necessity of democratic development for Czechoslovakia and other European states as well (Protheroe 2006: 102).
The obvious aim of the alliance proposed by Beneš was to prevent the resurgence of Hungarian power and the restoration of the Habsburg Monarchy. The real purpose of the Little Entente followed much broader pattern. The alliance was designed to stop any encroachments on the independence of the member states committed by any European power. This meant that Beneš intended to gain the respect both from Hungary and other powers such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. In addition, the Little Entente should strengthen the influence of its member states in international deliberations (Gordon and Gilbert 1994: 112).
Another interpretation explaining the background of the forming of the Little Entente could be based on considerations concerning a new balance of power in Europe after World War I. France planned to contain a possible German aggression by forming an arrangement composed of German neighbours. Before World War I, Russia served as a suitable ally for the mentioned purpose. The end of World War I left France with the Soviet Union not willing to figure as French ally. Thus France sough for an alternative states neighbouring Germany and having close ties to France. As the Little Entente fulfilled these conditions, France strongly support its formation (Spielvogel 2005: 751).
The first step towards founding a collective defense arrangement in the Central Europe was a convention between Czechoslovakia and Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes signed on August 14, 1920. The treaty guaranteed the mutual assistance in the event of an unprovoked attack launched by Hungary against any stipulator. Subsequently, Beneš suggested a participation in the emerging alliance to Romania on August 17, 1920, but his offer was rejected by irresolute Romanian government. Although the mentioned treaty was signed, it did not served as a regular allied convention.
The true allied conventions were signed in order as follows:
The mentioned conventions encompassed almost identical terms as the treaty from August 14, 1920. Again, it was stated that in the event of an unprovoked attack employed by Hungary against a certain stipulator other parties should provided mutual assistance. In addition, the treaties defined the mutual assistance via special military convention which was to be signed. Until the such convention comes into force, an interim measures was to be taken. The member states of the Little Entente also pledged themselves to cooperation in terms of foreign policy towards Hungary (Glasgow 1926: 103-104).
During its formation, the Little Entente had to prove its determination of being a safeguard against any restoration sponsored by Habsburgs. Firstly, Karl I of Austria returned to Hungary from Switzerland on March 26, 1921. He reclaimed the Hungarian throne, but this action earned neither the support of Miklós Horthy, nor consent of the Little Entente. Thus Karl I of Austria was forced to leave the country on April 1, 1921. On October 20, 1921, he nevertheless returned to Hungary and renewed his claims. The situation was complicated by the fact that Karl I managed to gain the support from a certain part of the army (Dowling 2002: 43).
The Little Entente reacted promptly under the guidance of Beneš. Its member states began to mobilize its armies and the threat of direct involvement of the Little Entente was imminent. Moreover, other European powers expressed their refusal to restoration attempts of Karl I. Under these circumstances Hungarian government defeated Karl's followers and even they arrested Karl on October 24, 1921. Then the time of Hungarian reluctance to deprive Karl I of his titles and increasing danger of military incursion of the Little Entente into Hungary followed. Finally, Hungarian government passed the act abrogating the sovereign rights of Karl I on November 10, 1921 (Protheroe 2006: 87).
Although the thwarted restoration of Habsburgs posed an unambiguous success of the Little Entente, the events following this peak of the Entente's cooperation showed increasing tensions within the alliance. The Genoa Conference which was held from April 10 to May 19, 1922 highlighted the divergences of opinion among the member states of the Little Entente. The problem arose from the possible recognition of the Soviet Union by its European counterparts. As Czechoslovakia was mainly an industrial state, it was prone to normalize its relations with the Soviet Union and therefore to recognize the new formed state. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes together with Romania were agriculture-based countries not interested in economical cooperation with the Soviet Union. Neverthenless, all member states participating in the Little Entente congruously considered the Soviet Union as the threat (Fink et al 2002: 187-190).
In the 1920s, France as the decisive supporter of the Little Entente pursued its policy towards tightening the alliance. Hence this power launched a series of friendship treaties aimed at forging the relations between France, Czechoslovakia, Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and Romania. The mentioned treaties were signed as follows:
These treaties obliged the parties to consult their foreign policies, foremost the security matters of the involved states (Osmanczyk 2002: 632).
The inevitable consequence of the successful performance of the Little Entente was its institutionalisation. Guided by this purpose, the Pact of Organisation, also called The Little Entente System or The Reorganisation Pact, was signed in Geneva on February 16, 1933, providing a legal framework for a permanent collaboration among the member states. According to that treaty, a Permanent Council together with a Permanent Secretary were to be established. The former body was designed for periodical meetings attended by the foreign ministers of the three countries, while the latter one was to provide a day-to-day routine operations of the Little Entente (Schlesinger 1998: 421). The meetings of the proposed Council were to be held in the capitals of the member states at least three times per year, thus enhancing a regular harmonization of foreign policies pursued by the given countries (Ragsdale 2004: 10). Moreover, by implementation of the Economic Council into the organisation structure of the Little Entente the member states declared their will to coordinate its economic interests too.
The successful performance of the Little Entente resulted in its institutionalisation. Guided by this purpose, the Pact of Organisation, also called The Little Entente System or The Reorganisation Pact, was signed in Geneva on February 16, 1933. The treaty was delivered by Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member states - Bogoljub D. Jevtic for Yugoslavia, Nicolae Titulescu for Romania, and Edvard Beneš for Czechoslovakia. The aim of the Pact of Organisation was to provide a legal framework for a permanent collaboration among the member states. This objective was to be reached by an establishing of new institutions operating on behalf of the member states within the Little Entente. The main instruments of collaboration were: