To say that Dr. Heike Fuller, Germany‘s consul general to the Southeast, has faced a whirlwind of demands since arriving in Atlanta may be somewhat of an understatement.
Her first task upon arrival in August was to find lodgings for herself and family including her husband and three children.
Germany’s official residence has experienced structural problems and prior to her arrival was placed on the market in Buckhead. Consequently Dr. Fuller and her family moved into a local hotel while she searched for a home and a school for her twin son and daughter.
With the Atlanta International School accepting her children and a suitable residence found, the baptismal phase was over. But her responsibilities as the consul general quickly clicked in.
Starting with the Atlanta opening of the Deutschlandjahr USA — the “Year of German-American Friendship” under the motto “Wunderbar Together,” — she did a head first plunge into a German-American cultural project and street festival at the Atlanta Fulton Library, a building designed by German Bauhaus-movement architect Marcel Breuer.
She told Global Atlanta during an interview at the German Consulate General downtown that the Deutschlandjahr USA initiative underscores Germany as a modern, open and multicultural country that reaches out not only to civic and business leaders, but also to young people through direct exchanges in a multitude of projects and events.
Before October was gone, she also was part of the 40th anniversary of the German American Chamber of Commerce South and hosted a group of German investors from Nuremberg (Nürnberg) in the south of Germany that is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a Sister City of Atlanta this year.
During the interview, Dr. Fuller recalled her first days in Atlanta as warmly hospitable and had special words of appreciation for the efforts on her behalf of Abby Turano, Georgia‘s deputy commissioner for international relations and chief of protocol and Vanessa Ibarra, director, international affairs and trade at the Atlanta mayor’s office.
The day following the celebration of the “Day of German Unity” and the launch of the “Year of German American Friendship” in Atlanta, she attended a colloquium for 120 alumni of the German Academic Exchange Service on the role of scholarship and science in society, which linked German and U.S. scholars to consider subjects such as “the future of democracy” and “imagining the future” from a transatlantic perspective.
Dr. Fuller comes to Atlanta with a wide variety of diplomatic experience and an impressive educational background. She is a lawyer with a doctorate in law and had worked in a German bank prior to joining the German Foreign Ministry. She has served in Portugal, Japan, Egypt, at NATO in Brussels and in Rwanda as well as filling in several posts in Berlin and Bonn, Germany’s former capital. And she knows Washington from a previous assignment at the German embassy there.
In her remarks to Global Atlanta, she made it clear that as a woman and mother of three children she has been a path breaker of sorts having been the first woman to be assigned by the German Foreign Ministry to NATO and the political department of the German embassy in Washington. She also served for three years as commissioner for corruption prevention and head of internal revision in Berlin and most recently was the deputy head of mission in Lisbon, Portugal, from 2014-18.
As Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s political future hangs in the balance, Dr. Fuller said forthrightly that she hopes diversity within the German ministries is growing. She believes that diversity, including putting women in positions “that matter and that are visible is essential to living in, doing business with and innovating the world.”
She is equally direct in staking out her agenda for the Southeast, saying that she wants to focus on Atlanta and Georgia first before reaching out to the other five states for which the consulate general is responsible.
However, she already has made two visits to Chattanooga where she visited the Volkswagen plant with Peter Beyer, coordinator of transatlantic cooperation at Germany’s Federal Foreign Office, and a return trip with a group of German members of Parliament on the occasion of the 35th Annual Congress-Bundestag Seminar in partnership with the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the American Council on Germany.
A fervent supporter of “people-to-people” initiatives, she said that she hopes to create linkages in the Southeast with German initiatives in the areas of education including vocational training, digitalization, the environment, health care and language learning.
While serving in Portugal, she was aware of the strides Lisbon has made as a center for information technology and plans to maintain her ties there.
She also wants to develop new ways of bringing people together other than through “conference diplomacy.” Instead, she said that her focus would be placed on the interaction of people and ideas.
And she underscored her success in organizing bicycle tours in Lisbon as a means of reaching out to different communities.
A special interest of hers also is to combat the proliferation of plastic. She takes her own canvas bags to the grocery store in an effort to provide an alternative example to the use of plastic bags. And she is ready to start a campaign against the use of plastic straws which she says end up in the oceans where they cause serious harm to fish and other animals.
As if anticipating her plastic concerns, Delta Air Lines Inc. announced on Oct. 27 that it will remove the use of an assortment of single-use plastic items from flights and Delta Sky Clubs including stir sticks, wrappers, utensils and straws.
To reach the Consulate General of Germany, call 404-659-4760.