* Says decision to replace Juncker must be discussed collectively
* Had earlier said he was not a candidate, not campaigning for job
PARIS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - France’s finance minister said on Friday it was too early to speculate on his potential candidacy to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as the new chairman of euro zone finance ministers, but did not rule himself out.
Pierre Moscovici emerged as a candidate for the job on Tuesday after Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Juncker said he would step down as Eurogroup chief at the end of this year or early next.
That gave policymakers just four weeks to find a successor to fill a potential power vacuum.
Speaking on BFM TV earlier on Friday, Moscovici had said he was neither campaigning nor a candidate for the job.
But in a statement to clarify his comments he said that given Juncker had only just announced his decision any individual steps towards the job would not be appropriate nor make sense.
“Any predictions on the subject would be premature,” he said. “The decision to replace him (Juncker) when the time comes must be thought about collectively.”
The Eurogroup has taken or prepared key decisions in the bloc’s debt crisis over the past three years, such as Greece’s debt restructuring, the creation of euro zone emergency funds and bailouts of Ireland and Portugal.
In addition to potential candidates mentioned in connection with the job earlier this year, some have called for a government head to run the group, instead of a finance minister.
For many years, Juncker had both roles in Luxembourg, giving him clout in discussions. He has headed the group since 2005.
Juncker’s double role created a convenient link between the euro zone’s 17 finance ministers and its heads of state and government, who ultimately make the most important decisions.
“It is an important responsibility to face the euro zone crisis,” Moscovici said. “France is obviously not disinterested. It will contribute to the debate when the time comes in close consultation with Germany and its euro zone partners,” he said.
When it looked as if Juncker might step down earlier this year, several names were put forward as potential successors.
They included German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, who is a former finance minister, and Mario Monti, the caretaker prime minister of Italy.
Senior German conservative lawmaker Michael Fuchs said on Tuesday that Schaeuble should be the next head of the Eurogroup because Germany puts up 27 percent of the financing for the euro zone bailout funds.