On the 60-anniversary of the twinning agreement between Hamburg and St Petersburg in the German-Russia week, First Burgomaster of Hamburg Olaf Scholz has met students and professors from St Petersburg University with a focus on developing collaboration between twin cities, international integration, and media digitization.

How to make progress on collaboration, as Mr Scholz sees it, rests on more emphasis on cultural and civil initiatives, which is primarily due to informing the public in a comprehensive and reliable manner about what is happening locally, nationally and globally.  

The event was visited by students and professors from Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. The most debated issue was media digitization. Media digitization, on the one hand, can benefit ordinary people by showing various aspects of life and point of view, Mr Scholz said. On the other hand, the onrush of digital technologies, especially in big data collecting and processing, can lead to state and business control. “The problem with the Internet-media is that they are commercially biased and provide favourable environment for fake news “, – said Mr Scholz.

The current tendency to move forward right conservatives and populist politicians, as Mr Scholz thinks, is most apparent in the Internet.  The bots and fake news give a boost to the far right and left parties, and they, as a rule, are guilty of unreason and lack of intelligence. It can lead to further extremist ideas, which can become the most popular.

The discussion covered a migration issues, globalization and blurring cultural borders. Each year over one million immigrants arrive at Germany, said Mr Scholz, and among them are those who come from the Middle East and other countries. Today over one third of the population in Germany have a “migration background”, that is they are descendants of immigrants or became residents after they had come to Germany. Any society must include foreigner, rather than exclude them, said Mr Scholz, thus it can form a basis for peaceful and safe global integration. It is not politically correct to talk about national cultures in multi-national counties, like Russia or Germany, said Mr Scholz. Rather, we should use the term “local culture” as it is more concerned with unique and distinctive nature and charm of traditions, art and way of life of various ethnic groups.

It is not the first time when Mr Scholz has visited SPbU: in 2015 there was a meeting of Hamburg Senate and University.  “I am happy to see how the relationships between the universities of Hamburg and SPbU are moving from strength to strength. I like to take part in open meetings and have discussion with SPbU’s students, − said Mr Scholz. – On my part, I will further encourage collaboration in culture and education between our cities”.